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From tarantulas to trust

17 Jun 2013

yummy tarantulaAs I inspected my forkful of local Cambodian crispy tarantula on a HelpAge business trip last week, it occurred to me that I was placing a good deal of trust in the de-fanging skills of the good chefs at Romdeng restaurant in Phnom Penh, a social enterprise linked to the NGO Friends International.

Trust is a commodity that is being gradually built here. Tensions can exist between civil society, government and other stakeholders - so a good deal of time needs to be invested to nurture some of the more fragile relationships. Multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Clean Business Initiative of the umbrella NGO Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC) should be encouraged.

Where can investors place their money?

Investment for the private sector is also no easy matter. As one bank explained to us, there are few alternative investments available; no bond market and a single listed company on the stock market. So where can investors place their money, apart from in property, which results in so-called property bubbles, to get a decent return on investment?

This is a question also facing NGOs involved in fundraising in the region - and certainly some are turning to social enterprise in response. Restaurants and shops in particular are springing up in the main cities including Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap.

Managing financial risk

But, like eating the tarantula, it's important to manage risk carefully so that it doesn't come back to bite you.

Regular tarantula-eaters may want to take out life insurance - a relatively new concept in Cambodia, but one likely to gain traction as the government works with insurers to promote financial literacy.

Still, as a notable Cambodian philanthropist who we met agreed, only a universal social pension for older people would suffice for the majority of older people. But would this be an affordable option? Well, you might have to ask our PensionWatch experts about that...

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Jeremy Gould
Country: U.K.
Job title: Corporate Partnerships Manager

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.