Phnom Penh, July 27: Cambodia’s healthy gold reserves add to the country’s key elements, such as peace, political stability and macro-economic development to re-affirm that Cambodia’s overall position is still in good shape. These suggest more investments should move to the Southeast Asian nation after she opened the country’s economy to all investments from every corner of the world.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has been doing its utmost in many ways to serve the interests of the country and its people and ensure that Cambodia is ready for mutual cooperation as she diversifies free trade deals with countries in Asia and elsewhere.
Some would argue wrongly, that the amounts of gold held by Cambodia are small. It includes 12.4 tonnes of gold inherited from the post-Cambodia’s wars and deposited with a Swiss bank, another 14.1 tonnes of gold stored in the Bank of England vaults and 10 tonnes of gold retained in Cambodia.
But, it is quite big deal for a small country such as Cambodia, which has more than 15 million population and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $27.1 billion. The government is also good at saving, as proven by the fact that more than a $3 billion surplus is recorded. So, when the government reduces its budget 50 per cent for next year, it is a political decision on the country’s priority for development and other needs.
It is also a big chunk when it comes to its $19 billion international reserves, as stated by the National Bank of Cambodia on July 23. It means more than just the amount of gold and billions of international reserves: It is the country’s good image of governance under the great leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who sent a clear and loud message to the outside world that Cambodia is very committed to transparency and accountability.
That also means that national and international investors should take a closer look at the Kingdom of Wonders on its investment radar in the region, more than just the 10-country block Asean, with its more than 600 million population. Yet, once you invest in Cambodia your market is much larger than that of Asean alone because Asean has more free trade agreements with countries, such as the Republic of Korea (South Korea), China, Japan, India and others.
Phnom Penh joined the World Trade Organization in 2004 and is to ratify the free trade deals between Asean-Hong Kong, China, India and elsewhere to further open Cambodia’s market overseas.
In 1999, Cambodia joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its
ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Cambodia has been at peace since 1998 thanks to the win-win policy championed by Prime Minister Hun Sen that ended the Khmer Rouge’s military and political organisation. Pol Pot, the architect of the Khmer Rouge genocide from April 17, 1975-Jan 7, 1979, who died the same year in Along Veng district, Oddar Meanchey province, near the Thai border.
The Khmer Rouge, notorious for its killing fields, is blamed for the deaths of between 2 to 3 million Cambodians from starvation, execution, disease and forced labour before it was toppled by Vietnamese troops in January 1979.
Cambodia enjoyed its achievement thanks to peace, political and macro-economic stability. The government is improving its domestic reforms, while Phnom Penh’s friendly foreign policy is making friends near and far, based on equal footing, along respect for one another’s independence and sovereignty and mutual interest.
Today, the government is amending its related laws and regulations for investment to facilitate trade and investments in the context of globalisation. Cambodia’s new investment law is expected to come online soon. At the same time, the Ministry of Commerce is draftingan e-commerce Law.
Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a delegation to China, where the two trade and commerce ministers will sign the trade deal in Beijing, expected to be in place before mid-August. This move will attract not only Chinese investment to Cambodia, but others, given that two-way trade increased to more than $7.4 billion in 2018 and is targeted to reach $10 billion in 2023. It was more than $6 billion in 2017 from $5.16 billion in 2016.
The country’s inflation rate is still relatively low at 2.8 per cent in recent years and the foreign exchange rate is steady at around 4,100 riels to the US dollar.
Cambodia also has potential manpower attractive to investors – a young population that represents about 70 per cent of its total population. In this respect, more investments should be ready to move to the Kingdom of Wonders where the country has enormous potential in tourism, agro-industry, garment, education, among other sectors, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Cambodia brings together potential and opportunity, to fulfill investors’ needs and goals for future growth.
Ek Tha is the spokesman of the Council of Ministers’ Office, adviser to the Ministry of Information and standing vice-chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit