Thursday, June 27, 2024

Selected Comments Samdech Moha Bovor Thipadei Hun Manet, at the solidarity dinner with the Cambodian MSMEs and handicrafts family [unofficial and translations]



(1) After the liberation from the Pol Pot regime 45 years ago, the priority goal of the Royal Government is to promote the development and improvement of people’s lives

Promoting (development of) the nation and improving the lives of our people has always been the goal in the last 45 years after the (overthrow of the) genocidal regime of Pol Pot. For the next 100 or 200 years, we will change only the methods and priorities but we will keep on trying to achieve the same goal. Cambodia has set a goal by 2050 to become a high-income country, where people (are affluent) […] this is the goal of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) […] out of the (Pol Pot regime,) there were no companies. When we started to open up the private sector, most of them came from small or micro enterprises, which are now growing into medium and large companies […] I think the 5,000 MSMEs this evening, in 10 or 15 more years, will not stay the same size. With stability and endeavor, many will be successful and become large enterprises […]

(2) Defining five priority areas for development

[…] We have set five priorities for development. The first of which is to diversify the sources of growth […] to start with (after the January-7-1979 liberation), we only had agriculture. We now have a manufacturing, tourism, and industry. In this term, we need to expand IT sector […]; the second priority is to promote the private sector, especially focusing on MSMEs. Thirdly, to improve the social protection system, because developed countries depend on healthy people […]; fourthly, to strengthen education, general knowledge and skills. Our people are alive and healthy, but in order to promote development, we need them to have the knowledge and skills […]; and fifthly, to protect the environment sustainably […] in the past 10 months, regarding the five priorities, the Royal Government has set out a number of policies and action plans related to social protection, training, education, environmental protection, economic diversification […]

(3) Provide opportunities for large enterprises to invest, while taking care of small and medium enterprises

Why do we need to pay special attention to SMEs, MSME? What has the government done to help the private sector and SMEs? […] let me mention the following three points.

Firstly, why does the private sector need to have support? The primary factor is the Constitution’s Article 56 which states that the Kingdom of Cambodia implements a market economy […] which is based on the private sector as its core. The state does not play a role on behalf of the private sector in a market economy […] the private sector plays a central role to complement the state in resolving the need for production and services to our people, which is growing rapidly […]

For instance, in education, health, infrastructure and employment, where the country recorded some 200,000 working-age people a year, the state cannot recruit them all. The private sector help absorb these working-age people […] the same is true for the health sector […] even with its eight-story building, the Calmette Hospital is still (lack of) accommodation […] we have private clinics and consulting posts in the provinces that can meet the needs […]

Now that we are building mega infrastructures, the state may be able to build some of the national roads. If we are to build highway, the soon-coming Funan Techo canal system, railways, and airports, and there is no budget and participation of the private sector, we may take a long time to fulfil […] however, if we allow the private sector to carry them through, for example in the form of BOT, they may accomplish them sooner […]

Secondly, the advantage of (being fulfilled by) the private sector is because they are more efficient and effective […] high-end unit cars at disposal of many users quickly break down. This confirms responsibility. The private sector will be responsible for the profit and the loss, so they make an effort […] state institutions take the example of the private sector and organize some self-financing public administration/institutions […] even now, in the seventh legislative term, we are reforming the system to encourage officials based on achievements […]

Another point, (thirdly,) the private sector has got the characteristics of innovation and competition […] to be successful, innovation must be guaranteed. To ensure innovation, we must make sure people receive quality, diversity and value. What would all this do to the people? The benefit is the creation of diverse products and services, good quality and reasonable prices for the people […]

(4) MSMEs play an important role in promoting economic growth and increasing employment

Why do we need to focus on SMEs or MSMEs in Cambodia? The government of the seventh legislative term has pinpointed one of the five key measures to help the informal sector, mostly SMEs, to attract and strengthen […] MSMEs play a very important role in promoting economic growth and increasing employment. If we look at the world, MSMSEs account for 90% of the total base of enterprises worldwide […] while in Cambodia, based on the 2022 Census, there are over 750,000 recorded MSMEs, and more are not yet in the list, and the number will expand from that in two years. They absorb about three million labor force, or equivalent to 70% of the total labor force, and stood at 63% of Cambodia’s gross domestic product […]

(5) Major guarantees of the Royal Government for the private sector is to ensure peace, security and social stability

What has the government done in the last 10 months (to assist MSMEs)? From the previous terms, the Royal Government has set out policies, favors and incentives in this regard […] what the state has to guarantee, first of all, is stability, which the private sector – foreign and home investors, are most afraid to lose […] the Royal Government must provide a big guarantee of peace, security and social stability for the private sector […] to ensure the rights and freedoms of the private sector to play a role in job creation and help improve the lives of people […]

Secondly, maintain macroeconomic stability […] in Cambodia, we can ensure the lowest inflation – only 2% to 3%, which gives a stable balance. The price of electricity in our neighboring countries has increased a lot due to the fighting in Ukraine […] the EDC and the Royal Government taken measures to keep the balance from going up too much […] we are lucky to have 62% of our energy source from renewable sources like hydropower and solar energy […]

There are talks on Facebook that the consumer prices have been going up. To compare it with the case of neighboring countries, our prices are still manageably low […] the past 10 months have been the difficult months that we are facing the world economic uncertainty factors. Business people should understand the ups and downs, whereby sometimes it is easy to do business, and sometimes it is not so […] our economy is recovering, but if we compare, it has not yet regained the strength it had before the Covid-19 […]

Thirdly, setting out policies and the provision of various incentives over the next 10 months to guarantee(/support) the market economy. Those were to support the market economy, ensure the legal framework, invest in human resources and required infrastructures, we build roads, ports, and invest more in airports, canals, and reform the logistics systems as well as the railway transport systems […]

(6) Our economy is not what it was before Covid-19

People may ask if the economy is now as healthy as it used to be. Well, it would depend on when do we compare it to. If we compare to before 2019 or before 2020, the economy is not as good as it was then. At that time, 2018-2019, millions of tourists came to Cambodia and the economy grew quite fast. Now, our tourism sector is recovering but not yet to the previous level […] but compared to 2021-2022, we are certainly recovering. While the country was in lockdown, the tourist industry in Siem Reap was shut down. Now, we are recovering […] our economy is not as smooth as before Covid-19 […] the government has put in place appropriate policies, which, at this hour, helps ease the pressure, encourages and provides favorable principles for the private sector […]

(7) “Visit Siem Reap 2024” to promote tourism; the state points direction and provides incentives, whereas the private sector compete

We have set a goal – “Visit Siem Reap 2024” – to boost tourism. we have noticed some upward movement, but not yet to our satisfaction. We hope that in 2025, we will do a lot better. We have just completed the re-launch of the mechanism to study the market for tourism promotion, connecting flights with India, and some other countries. I met with the Thai Foreign Minister and discussed the level of mechanisms to better link tourism from Thailand to Cambodia […]

The state listens to the private sector and helps solve what the private sector needs to do businesses. This is the role of the state. The state does not need to tell the private sector to do this or that. The state just says to the private sector which direction to move and the state only provides incentives, whereas the private sector has to compete. For instance, the Sihanoukville Investment 2024. The state has set some goals, and we have issued some favorable principles for 2025 and 2026 […] Sihanoukville has great potential to boost the manufacturing industry, and real estate has grown rapidly in about 10 years. We are trying to recover from the state of stagnancy […]

(8) The government makes big and sharp reforms in difficult circumstances

The government has made big and many sharp reforms […] sometimes reforms are done when it comes to difficult situation and no body bothers doing it when it is in a normal state […] it is time for us to think together and prepare ourselves because the economy is up and down. As of this time, we are facing the Covid-19 and the war crisis. In the Asian economic downturn and financial crisis in 1997, […] also impacted us. The market economy is like that. What we can learn from them is to reform so that when the crisis comes again, the real estate sector and other affected sectors are more resilient as both the private and public sectors have learned from this experience, adjusted to and always be prepared […]

(9) Recovering gradually from the Covid-19 crisis, Cambodia is expecting 6% growth for 2024

The Covid-19 crisis came to us (with) some challenges […] as of this hour, I could say that our economy has recovered slowly. In 2022, it was a downturn. In 2021, it was in the negative area. By 2023, we got it up back to 5%. And now 2024, we expect to realize the forecast growth of 6% […] an Australian independent think tank – Lowy Institute – has just released a report in which it listed the power of Cambodia’s attractiveness, compared to 2022, in the Asia-Pacific region, to be +0.7 […] the institute surveys the views of investors not only in Cambodia but around the world on what they view Cambodia? That our position is positive at +0.7 is high compared to other countries in the region […] or it means that our forecast of the future is accurate […]

(10) Successful domestic investors are the main advertisers for attracting foreign investors

It’s important to expand and grow bigger to show tangible accomplishments. This is why I say, “one bird in one hand is better than 20 in the bush.” Take care of the one sparrow in hand (- which is) the private sector, company, small and medium enterprises – to grow successfully, then they will be attractive to bring more in […] and they have become important blockbuster for the private sector and the country’s economy […] I urge the private sector to play a role as a partner with the Royal Government to think, to act and to take responsibility together. These three words are important. The Royal Government does not work on behalf of the private sector, the government only creates for the private sector conditions of stability, peace, infrastructure, electricity, water, and ensuring reasonable prices, putting in place policies, and reducing the burden […] the private sector must survive and be strong and continue to be strong […]

(11) Cambodia would not be asleep waiting for favors

Cambodia will come to its goal to be a rich country by 2050. However, before becoming a rich country, we must leave the state of a poor country by 2029. When we leave the group of less developed countries, we will be removed from some of the favorable principles. Exports to some countries will not enjoy favorable treatment. We will not have loans with favorable condition anymore […] would we become a rich country if we were still asleep waiting for some countries to provide favors? No, we would not […] I am calling on the private sector to strengthen themselves to become capable and stable actors. The private sector is strong, then our economy is strong […] the Thai Foreign Minister said he wanted to a mechanism that opens the door for frequent private-to-private meeting (between Thailand and Cambodia). I say welcome for the private sectors of the two countries to meet because they speak the language of business, which the state does not know […] as I only speak the language of policy […]./


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