Central Asia: Investing in the New Frontier

Investing in emerging markets has been a popular business choice for years now, with a different part of the world being dubbed a veritable ‘goldmine’ for foreign investors year on year.

But how do you ensure that your investment is well placed? Of course, there are never any guarantees, but doing your homework and making decisions based on facts and statistics, as opposed to a hunch, is a very good start.

This type of informed investment decision is why Central Asia is such an attractive opportunity for the frontier investor. Experts are convinced that the untapped markets of this region are ripe for investment, but it’s not just their opinions that are impressive – the statistics are too. Of all the emerging markets on the planet, Central Asia is a foreign investor’s dream and everything written about the area, and the studies already undertaken, reiterate this notion.

Take the region’s financial system, for example – this part of the world boasts some of this century’s fastest-growing economies and combined with staggering reserves of natural resources, it’s no wonder foreign investors are falling over themselves to get a piece of the action. There are three reasons why Central Asia’s capital markets are perfect for investment.

· They’re under developed

· They’re under researched

· They’re low cost

The area is underdeveloped when compared to other emerging markets, meaning investors can build a legacy in an area of relative infancy. Apart from the research quoted in this article, there has been very little digging done into the potential for investment in Central Asia. This means that in investment terms, it’s one of the globe’s best-kept secrets. Finally, the area still boasts inexpensive resources and therefore any investment project can be completed while being easy on your pocket.

When it comes to property, the mantra is ‘location, location, location’ and it could be said that investment is no different. The central part of Asia enjoys a strategic position between two phenomenally large economies in China and India. As these grow, so will the demand for Central Asia’s natural resources – and with that follows unique investment opportunities. 1.2 billion people live in India, while China has a population of 1.3 billion. India is the fifth largest oil importer in the world, while China is the third and they boast $4.1 and $10.1 trillion GDPs respectively, meaning the area has two significant markets next door.

Central Asia is packed with countries that are perfect for foreign investors and the area represents a significant opportunity for those with the funds. Turkmenistan, for example, has discovered gas fields with the ability to supply the UK for at least 20 years, Kazakhstan boasts 99 of the Periodic Table’s 110 elements in mined and mineable reserves, and Uzbekistan holds the fourth largest reserves of gold in the world.

Central Asia is an investment based on fact not fiction, statistics not sixth sense and potential not promises. With its significant natural resources, new markets and economic growth, now is the time to invest in this profitable region- can you really afford to miss this opportunity?

Keeping Safe in Asia

ASIA, LAND OF DIVERSITY

Asia is a beautiful and diverse place, from rain forests, rice fields, and cultural landmarks, to bustling cities, gridlock motor bike traffic, and relentless marketeers. But there are two sides to this intriguing land; Asia is also a place of terrible crime, violence and corruption. Travellers to Asia can take safety precautions and procedures to ensure you are kept safe.

CRIME PREVAILS

Most Asian countries are developing nations, where people on average have a much lower income than people from western countries. I was talking with a young 20 year old man that was waiting on us at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He told me he worked 18 hours a day, 28 days per month, and he earned US$40 per month (US$1.40 per day). Although these people get by, living in these conditions can be very difficult, and turning to crime would be an attractive and almost irresistible option. Just a small amount of pick-pocketing and stealing could provide a lot more for their families.

TRAVELLERS ARE TARGETED

Most lower-middle class Asians will see foreigners as very wealthy people. In their minds, if you can afford to travel here, you are rich. Criminals will know that you will be carrying valuable items and cash, and you could be targeted as a potential victim. My friend and I were walking to the park near our hotel in Ho Chi Minh. He was taking photos with a very expensive camera and kept it loosely around his neck with a strap. Thankfully, before anything happened, a concerned local who could speak very good English told us that we should be extremely careful if we were to have the camera out, especially at night time. We returned the camera to the hotel room before returning to the park.

AUTHORITIES ARE OF LITTLE USE

If you are a victim of a crime in the developing Asian countries, there is not much help provided. In fact, the police can be just as corrupt as the criminals. While in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I was visiting an Australian who lives there permanently. She had just bought a car and was giving it a test run. She saw some locals drive down the wrong direction of a one way street and decided to do the same. Immediately she was stopped by the police. According to protocol, she was to go to the police station and receive a US$25 fine for breaking the road rules. She waved a US$10 note to the policeman, he took it, returned to his car, and let her go about her business. The police in Cambodia rely on bribes and corruption to provide food for their families, as the wages they get do not go very far.

HOW TO BE SAFE

No-one likes to be a victim of crime, so here are techniques to be safe while travelling in Asia.
1. Do not keep valuables lying around in hotel rooms. Hotel cleaning staff earn a lowly wage, and although they may be nice and honest people, don’t tempt them. A good idea is to lock your luggage zippers with a padlock when leaving possessions alone in hotel rooms.

2. Do not keep valuables loosely hanging on your body. Cameras and belt bag straps can be slit with a small knife very quickly, and by the time you have figured it out, your items are gone. Use a slim, poly-cotton money belt, strapped inside of your clothes, around your body. They are very thin, almost invisible under clothes, and inaccessible by shifty pick-pockets.

3. If possible, wear your backpack at the front. This is not so important if you are in a group, but when alone or in a pair, this is a good idea. An acquaintance was sharing with me his experiences in Cambodia. A foreign woman with a bag on her back was riding on the back of a moto (motorbike taxi service) when a man (who was on foot) grabbed her pack as she was riding by. The woman stubbornly held on to her pack and came off the back of the moto. Although she got to keep her possessions, she was covered with cuts and grazes from the fall.

4. Travel in numbers. A good rule is to have at least two people going everywhere you go, ESPECIALLY at night time. When we were in Cambodia we made it a rule to walk in pairs, even throughout the day. I know this can be difficult for people that travel alone, may be you could find a group from your country that is going to the same country that you want to go to.
http://www.asiaexplored.com An up and coming website dedicated to travel in Asia.

Golfing in Asia

Whether you’re an old pro, an amateur, or a rank newbie, you’ll find a place to play the game of golf almost anywhere in Asia. From Singapore to South Korea, golf has gained tremendous popularity both as a relaxing pastime, and as a way of forging tight business connections.

Some of the best golf courses in the world are in places like Thailand and Singapore, with incredibly beautiful and challenging courses adjacent to luxurious resorts. Besides the golf itself, the surroundings are incomparable. Even in major congested cities, golf courses are set in gorgeous surroundings, often just out of town in a relaxing countryside setting. Many have been created by world-famous designers with consultation by some of the game’s most prestigious players, creating courses that stand out among all others. You’ll find all the amenities of the American course and then some, with excellent clubhouses, restaurants, and spa facilities. If you’re golfing your way through Southeast Asia, the heat may be stifling, but you’re never too far away from a relaxing glass of cold tea, and a comfortable place to sit in the shade for a while and enjoy the tropical scenery. You’ll find the service to be second to none, and in some of the courses, you’ll enjoy seeing some things you’d never expect at a Western golf course. If you’re playing near the jungle, you may just hear a high-pitched, two-tone cry off in the distance, and if you get a little closer, you’ll see a gecko crawling around the green. In Thailand, some golfers have been known to see a monitor lizard on the course from time to time-but if you do, don’t look at it, it’s considered bad luck!

Seal the Deal at the Course

Golf has always been considered a “businessperson’s sport,” but it is even more so in Asia simply because of the business culture. In most Asian countries, business is transacted on a much more personal level than in America. In Japan for example, it is very important to make a personal connection with someone before conducting business or making a deal. It’s never “just business” when you make a business trip to an Asian country, and if you go with a hard-edged attitude of getting right down to business, you won’t get far. More deals get made on the golf course there than in the conference room, and your Japanese counterpart will want to know you on a personal level before signing any contracts. This may take place over a few nights at restaurants and bars, a geisha house, and more often than not, a round of golf.

Many of the best courses are private, with open golfing limited only to a couple days a month. But chances are, if you are on a business trip, your Asian counterpart will have a membership, so you’re in luck. If business isn’t part of your agenda, don’t worry, there are still plenty of options-and if you sign up with the right tour guide, you may even still be able to get inside some of those exclusive private clubs. And the public courses are often equally stunning and beautifully designed, with greens fees that compare quite favorably to those in America.

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, you won’t have to look too hard to find a good course, wherever you may be. In legendary golfer Tiger Woods’ ancestral home, Thailand is rich with very well-developed and well-played golf courses, offering a very high quality environment at low cost. In many of the Thai golf resorts, the pleasures don’t stop at golf alone, with extensive opportunities for elegant meals, traditional massage, and the ultimate in relaxation.

Finding Golf Everywhere

Even in less-developed areas like Cambodia, you can find some place to play, so don’t forget to bring your clubs when you go to Siem Riep to see the magnificent Angkor Wat. India too, with is rapidly emerging economy, has a newfound respect for the game of golf, and courses are starting to spring up to accommodate the country’s rapidly emerging middle class.

And regardless of politics, golf still persists-and Communist countries are no exception. Vietnam has opened itself up to trade and tourism, and yes, you can find a good game there too. Despite the country’s war-torn past, Vietnam is a beautiful country with incredible scenery and wonderful hospitality. It has become a popular tourist destination, and the Vietnamese are very accommodating. The surroundings are varied but always exotic. And three hours or so outside of Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll find one of the top ten courses in Asia, right along the coast of the South China Sea.

When you visit India, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the vast array of golf courses, and in fact, India has had a long-held fascination with the game ever since the early part of the 19th century. New golf courses spring up on a regular basis, and the game is enjoyed by a surprisingly large diversity of people from all walks of life in India.

Golf Holiday Tours

If you’re a golf fanatic, you don’t have to miss your favorite game while on holiday. Several tour operators offer fantastic golf vacations that are all-inclusive. No need to worry about finding out where to go or how to get there, your tour operator will take care of all the details for you. And if you’re lucky, you may just find a tour package that gets you into some of the more exclusive clubs.

Part of the Package

Wherever you go in Asia, incorporating golf into your vacation is a wonderful way to see the country. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to incorporate golf into your family vacation or your business trip, because of the incredible popularity of the game and the wide selection of available courses. Also, many of the courses offer extensive amenities, and are close by to cultural centers, special events, and other prime tourist destinations. Golfing on holiday in Asia doesn’t mean you have to spend time away from the family-many of the courses are part of very large resorts that include a little bit of everything for everyone.