The number of workers at the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ) is expected to increase from 30,000 now to 200,000 in the next few years as the port city becomes a manufacturing hub for the Kingdom, a senior official with the Commerce Ministry said yesterday.
Mao Thora, secretary of state at the ministry, told a conference of auditors from about 15 countries that although it would take about two more years to complete the legal framework for the SSEZ, the opportunities it presents for investors are already immense.
Mr. Thora called on Phnom Penh-based accounting and auditing firms to open branches in Sihanoukville to prepare for the rise in businesses there. “When there are more and more companies investing in Sihanoukville, the demand for auditing and accounting services will rise,” he told the Morison International Asia Pacific conference in Phnom Penh.
Morison advertises itself as an international association of accountants and auditors. Its website suggests it has offices on five continents – but all share the same London phone number.
“All local and foreign firms must study Cambodian law before investing,” Mr. Thora warned those present at the conference, which was organized by Morison’s representative here, Morison Kak & Associés. Its chairman – Kak Key – has been questioned in court about the ethics and independence of at least one of his audits. Mr. Kak has denied any wrongdoing.
Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone is a joint venture between Chinese-owned Jiangsu Taihu Cambodia International Economic Cooperation Investment Co Ltd and Cambo dia International Investment Development Group Co Ltd. It covers about 11 square kilometers of land near the provincial capital of Sihanoukville.
During the launch of the “Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025” in August, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the entire province of Preah Sihanouk would be linked to the SSEZ and that it would become a gateway to ASEAN and part of the global manufacturing supply chain.
Economist Srey Chanthy told Khmer Times yesterday that he had some doubts about whether major auditing and accounting firms like PwC and KPMG would be willing to open branches in Sihanoukville.
“Since they already have offices in Phnom Penh, they can provide services anytime and anywhere across Cambodia,” he said.
Mr. Kak told reporters after yesterday’s conference that it was intended to draw more investors to Cambodia.
He said Cambodia has many trustworthy auditing and accounting firms to assist them and that there were many places for them invest besides Phnom Penh. He did admit, however, that there was a lack of professionalism among some accounting firms here and that greater transparency was required in financial statements. He called for more training of auditors and accountants to ensure they had the skills required to earn the trust of clients.
Additional Reporting by Vincent MacIsaac.