Cambodia: Private sector ready for priority works toward recovery

The private sector has voiced readiness to work with the government to get priority works done and fulfil plans to develop public-private partnership (PPP) mechanisms, harness technology and leverage the benefits secured from trade deals, with a view to supporting a sustainable national economic recovery.

This comes on the heels of comments made by Prime Minister Hun Sen on October 25 at the closing ceremony of the one-day virtual ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2021, hosted by Brunei and held under the theme “Building Our Sustainable Digital Future”.

The prime minister highlighted a number of crucial tasks that need to be performed by each country, with careful attention to detail, to accelerate regional and global integration and other priority processes, to stimulate and drive sustainable socio-economic growth.

These include fostering the liberalisation of trade in services, growing and diversifying investment portfolios, facilitating cross-border travel and increasing the capacities of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Hun Sen identified three key areas of focus for the private sector.

First: Capitalise on the ASEAN Free Trade Agreements and the various ASEAN Agreements, as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is scheduled to enter into force early next year. Ramp up and encourage trade and investment, with emphasis on foreign direct investment (FDI), create jobs, increase incomes, and boost economic growth.

Second: Work with other businesses and FDI-related entities to promote human resource development and foster the transfer of technology, knowledge and know-how, with an aim to combat the digital skills gap, underprop local digital economies, and advance science, technology and innovation.

Third: Forge PPPs, using the associated mechanisms, that are designed to mobilise financial resources and develop and implement initiatives to help meet the financial needs for socio-economic recovery.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on October 26 that the private sector was ready to join hands with the government to deliver on the the priorities mentioned by the prime minister.

He underlined that the private sector is the backbone of the economy and an indispensable partner of the government in augmenting economic growth.

With a series of regional and bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) under its belt, Cambodia can be considered “very attractive for investment”, he said.

“The private sector is a vital contributor to the realisation of the government’s will and efforts to develop policies and achieve” FTAs, he said, adding that the business community’s involvement “will help raise people’s living standards, economic growth and national development”.

Cambodians’ abilities to use technology and learning resources at work are on the rise and ready to meet any human resource needs in the Kingdom, he added.

“Given Cambodia’s preparedness, as signalled by the drafting of new laws, bilateral and regional trade agreements, and the capacity of its labour force, I reckon that when the world is fully able to control the spread of Covid-19, there will be more multinational investors entering the Cambodian market,” Heng said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin said the tourism industry is ready to navigate and capitalise on available trade deals and new technologies to give the sector a much-needed shot in the arm after nearly two years of stagnation.

“We are ready to work with the authorities to seize the opportunity to revitalise tourism, a sector that had contributed significantly to the national budget prior to the Covid-19 crisis,” she said, adding that the pandemic has also led to a rapid increase in digital literacy.

The prime minister stressed that the government, in adherence to the mindset of turning crises into opportunities, launches and exercises tight control on the implementation of key policies and measures, to instil a “proactive spirit” in Cambodians and to encourage the engagement of the private sector in the restoration and enhancement of national economic growth.

Some of the instrument mentioned were the Cambodia Digital Economy and Social Policy Framework 2021-2035, the new Law on Investment, the Law on Public-Private Partnerships – passed by the Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, on October 8 – and FTAs with China and South Korea that are set to enter into force soon.