Strong leadership has been tested around the world as so many countries suffer under the devastating impact of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. Its effects go beyond the challenge of controlling the spread of the disease itself, but also its assault on economic, social and even cultural factors, and doing so while trying to preserve human dignity and freedom. Compared to many countries, this small Southeast Asian nation has performed extraordinarily well.
In Cambodia, many economic sectors vital to the nation’s well-being, such as garments and agriculture, continue to stand firm while a few other areas, for instance tourism, has faded. But, Cambodians still smile, join hands and stand by Prime Minister Hun Sen as he navigates the ship of State to overcome this stormy period since early this year.
Covid-19 has brutally exposed the weakness of many so-called strong leaders around the world which have been marked by protests and riots and public calls for resignation. Not so in Cambodia.
The country, her 16 million population, and FDI’s keep moving and flowing although their days are not as good as before Covid-19 reared it’s deadly presence on this earth. No life has been lost to the disease although 280, including the four still hospitalised, contracted the virus, as of 7th October, thanks to the government’s management in taking appropriate measures to cope with the deadly virus, along with participation by the people and technical and financial support from friends near and far.
Cambodia’s premier, works day and night with little time to say “hi” in person. He always makes sure that his electronic devices are with him through which he thoughtfully guides government operations to stay on the right course for the interest of the country, her people, and investors alike.
One should learn and remember by heart that, Cambodia would not be where it is today without the hard-earned peace, the result of the win-win policy championed by Mr Hun Sen who put an end to the military and political movement of the Khmer Rouge and its notorious killing fields in late 1998.
The Prime Minister recalled those times as he inaugurated the newly-built $85 million investment resort, Prince Manor, on 13 hectares of land on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Wednesday, October 7. He highlighted the fact that peace is the pillar, followed by other factors, such as the government development plan, among others.
“You cannot just get out of your house to take a vacation if the country is still at war, as you will get shot,” said the Premier, recalling the dark past which the country went through over nearly 30 years until 1998.
That was confirmed by the representative of Prince Group Holdings Ltd, which consists of 30 companies, who told the crowd that the company could not develop its projects without the Prime Minister’s and the government’s support.
As the current status of the Covid-19 crisis continues to hit the global economy, Cambodia has adapted to deal with new approaches needed and that is to improve agriculture production for more than just domestic supplies but also for exports; while tourism is slow.
“Agriculture is still playing an important role in social and economic development,” the Premier stressed.
At the same time, the government looks to invest multi-million dollars in developing greater physical infrastructure, mainly roads in Siem Reap, the home of Angkor, as well as in the coastal provinces of Kampot, Sihanoukville and others and through which the projects will also benefit the local people as construction workers.
No mega construction sites have been suspended despite the country’s economy being hit by Covid-19, said the Prime Minister.
The government, however, did not forget the unemployed, who worked in the tourism sector and industries hit by Covid-19. They get partial financial support from the government and companies with a total of $70 a month, and they can go to work with their parents who are farmers.
“I thank the private sector for contributing partial payments along with the government to sustain our society. I keep talking about the greater role of the private sector,” he said.
“Covid-19 can hurt us but cannot kill us. Cambodian peoples economic status and incomes are still in good shape,” the Prime Minister said.
In August, PM Hun Sen inaugurated the $44 million international standard Garden City Water Park at the North of Phnom Penh.
“I thank all companies, working in partnership with the government, and are playing key roles in maintaining the status quo for local jobs and exports. Should all companies have closed in Cambodia, it would have created a big problem for social status, but they did not.”
“Before, international financial institutions, such as World Bank and Asian Development Bank, predicted far negative growth for Cambodia. They have now reviewed and predicted a GDP growth forecast which is similar to ours. They predicted -2 per cent now, we said -1.9 per cent growth for this year. We keep standing on our own,” he said as he called upon his country’s people to join hands with the government and private sector to keep moving to develop this nation.
Ek Tha is a spokesman of the Council of Ministers, advisor to the Ministry of Information, Standing-Vice Chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit