Top Story of the Week: IMF sees Cambodia among fastest-growing economies over next five years
He was many things to the Cambodia he helped navigate through half a century of war and genocide — revered independence hero, ruthless monarch and prime minister, communist collaborator, eccentric playboy, avid filmmaker.
Most of all, perhaps, Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk was a cunning political survivor who reinvented himself repeatedly throughout his often flamboyant life. On Monday, aged 89, Sihanouk died of a heart attack in Beijing, where he had been receiving medical treatment since January for a variety of ailments.
Norodom Sihanouk, a two-time king who helped guide the small Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia through its first years of independence but ultimately failed to prevent it from descending into genocide at the end of the Vietnam War, died early Monday of natural causes in Beijing. He was 89 years old.
According to state-run Xinhua news agency, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee Li Zhanshu and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited Cambodia's former Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk on Monday morning to express their condolences and sympathy. "We are greatly shocked and grieved to learn that His Majesty former King Sihanouk died this morning in Beijing," Mr. Xi said after a silent tribute in front of a portrait of Mr. Sihanouk.
Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend a summit with Lao and Vietnamese leaders in Ho Chi Minh City next week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said Friday.
In a statement, the ministry said Hun Sen would be accompanied by Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh at the two-day meeting starting next Friday. "At the end of the summit, the prime ministers of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will sign (a) joint declaration," the statement said. The summit is the seventh on an initiative for a "development triangle area" covering northeast Cambodia, southern Laos and the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
The National Assembly yesterday unanimously approved two former judges for seats on the country’s top election body ahead of national elections next year despite a boycott by opposition lawmakers.
The 29 lawmakers of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Human Rights Party (HRP) refused to participate in the vote to protest the National Election Committee’s (NEC) perceived bias toward the ruling CPP, and the complete lack of transparency in the selection of new members. Despite the boycott, the two NEC candidates, Sin Dim and Sor Sophary, sailed through the vote, which went without debate and with all 87 lawmakers present voting in approval.
Cambodian students have fanned out across the impoverished nation to help grant land titles to villagers in an ambitious but contentious new scheme spearheaded by the prime minister.
When Hun Sen announced his titling plan in June, apparently without first consulting local authorities and communities, it was billed as a way to clamp down on land conflicts, seen as Cambodia's most pressing human rights issue.
But the strongman premier later backtracked, saying the more than 1,600 student volunteers recruited would not be measuring land in disputed areas at all, baffling campaigners who already lamented a lack of detail about the plan.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said yesterday that climate change will be a concern in some Asian countries, including Cambodia.
He encouraged the countries to find ways to manage any affects on their economies. Economists recognise it will lower growth in some main sectors of the economy – especially the agricultural sector. "I was surprised even in the last six months; the data on climate change has become ever more frightening. Things that we thought would only happen with higher temperature changes are happening now," said Kim during a press briefing at the 2012 IMF-WB Annual Meeting in Tokyo.
Cambodia could benefit more from trade in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) by implementing time and cost, cutting measures and removing constraints on exports, according to a new book by the Asian Development Bank.
“Cambodia’s exporters are well-positioned within the GMS to grow and expand,” Peter Brimble, senior country economist and author of one of the book chapters, said in a news release. “Policy adjustments can help reduce cost and transport times, making Cambodian exporters more competitive and enhancing their credibility.”
The reduction of property gap is difficult, while that of intelligence gap is also hard, but it is not beyond our ability, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony yesterday.
Samdech Techo Hun Sen affirmed that what the Royal Government of Cambodia wants to see is qualified human resources who can help developing the country in the new context of globalization and regionalization. “We cannot raise the income per capita in Cambodia to the same level of that in Singapore or Brunei, but we can narrow down the gap of brain development,” he underlined.
Cambodia International Building and Construction Industry Show officially opened here on Oct. 11 under the presidency of Cambodian Secretary of State for Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction H.E. Phuoeng Sophean.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, H.E. Phuoeng Sophean said the event will provide many opportunities to construction companies, SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises), architects, engineers, real estate developers and relevant businessmen to share experiences and to be informed of modern technologies. He further said that the three-day show (Oct. 10-12) will also help promote the Cambodian construction industry.
Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association (CEA), talks to the i’s Deputy Business Editor May Kunmakara about Cambodia’s economic performance this year and the effect of the global economy during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Annual Meeting in Tokyo.
How do you see Cambodia’s economic performance up to now?
Well, I do agree with some international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and the ADB as well as the government’s projections of 6.5 to 7 per cent on Cambodia’s growth projections for 2012. However, I would like to point out this figure is a projection for the average growth. The highest projection is between 9 to 10 per cent.
The Asia Development Bank's Cambodia Resident Mission has appointed Eric Sidgwick as its new country director. Sidgwick aims to focus his efforts on promoting an inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth, said a press release issued by the Asia Development Bank (ADB) yesterday.
Sidgwick started working at the ADB in 2007 as the senior country economist in Cambodia. In 2010 he was appointed the principal economist for regional cooperation in the ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. In this new role Sidgwick will ensure effective support for programs aimed at developing five priority sectors: transport, water supply, sanitation and urban development, agriculture and natural resources, education and finance – with the goal of fostering inclusive economic growth and social development.
Cambodia could reap even greater benefits from trade facilitation measures in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) by removing high logistics costs, delays and other barriers that hamper the country's connectivity and competitiveness, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) book released here on Thursday.
"Cambodia's exporters are well-positioned within the GMS to grow and expand," said Peter Brimble, senior country economist and author of one of the book chapters. "Policy adjustments can help reduce cost and transport times, making Cambodian exporters more competitive and enhancing their credibility."
Cambodia is projected to be one of the fastest growing developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years, the International Monetary Fund says.
In its annual World Economic Outlook released Tuesday, the IMF said that Cambodia was also expected to be the second-fastest growing ASEAN economy over the same period. Only Laos is forecast to expand more rapidly. GDP growth in Cambodia is projected to reach 7.7 percent in 2017. The only developing Asian economies expected to grow faster are Bhutan (10.7 percent), Timor-Leste (9.0 percent, China (8.5 percent) and Laos (7.8 percent).
The World Bank kept Cambodia's economic growth at 6.6 percent this year -- the same rate of its May's forecast, according to its East Asia and Pacific Economic Data Monitor released Monday.
In its May's report, it said that Cambodia has been one of the fastest growing countries in the world over the past 10 years, experiencing average annual growth of over 8 percent since 2000. The country's economy is relying on four main pillars -- garment export, tourism, agriculture and construction.
Cambodia will need investments of around $1 billion in the power sector before 2030 in order to address the power shortfall and expand supply to every village in the country as it now generates more than 600 megawatts of electricity across the country, according Invest in Cambodia Magazine.
The magazine reported that Up to 45 percent of the power consumed annually in Cambodia is imported from Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam with the remainder coming from hydropower and diesel or heavy oil generators.
Only 26 percent of Cambodia is connected to electricity networks and less than 13 percent in rural areas.
Thailand has committed to supplying additional energy to provinces on the Thai-Cambodia border, an official says.
Tun Lean, director of the General Energy Department at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said on Monday its Thai counterpart would supply an additional 40 megawatts of energy. “We will buy 40 megawatts to add to the current supply of 80 megawatts,” she said. “We will buy more from November. This capacity will be enough for demand in the three provinces, and it can also supply Phnom Penh if there is any remaining.”
Cambodians are starting to learn about insurance, thanks to Canadian company Manulife, which held a press conference on the topic on Friday.
Low awareness and a limited pool of skilled talent are challenges facing insurers in Cambodia according Prudential representative Pankaj Banerjee. Despite this, he said Prudential viewed Cambodia as an emerging market. “Rising per-capita income with a GDP compound annual growth rate of 11 per cent over the past decade, and being very young demographically, makes Cambodia an important growth market,” he said.
Food & Agriculture
Cambodian and Vietnamese officials agreed Thursday to details of a proposed cross-border project to improve fisheries management between Prey Veng province and Dong Thap province in Vietnam.
The agreement came during a two-day meeting chaired by So Sophort, deputy secretary general of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, and follows a recently-completed pilot project between the two provinces. During the meeting, co-chaired by Vietnam National Mekong Committee senior official Ly Van Diem, the two sides agreed that the project would aim to contribute to better management and sustainable use of the shared fisheries resources.
The Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Association in Battambang province will establish a biomass-generated electricity plant in Battambang, an insider said. The plant will cost up to US$10 million and generate 10 megatwatts of electricity.
Phou Puy, president of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Association (CRMA) and the Baitong Rice Export Company, said he is scheduled to sign a contract with a Malaysian firm in the upcoming days to set up the power plant operated by biomass from rice husks for generating the power. Yesterday Phou Puy, who did not remember the name of the Malaysian firm, confirmed that the biomass generator was a project being completed in cooperation between his company and a Malaysian firm.
Cambodia is making progress in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals with the proportion of undernourished people plunging by 57 percent over the past 20 years, the Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday.
The figures are contained in the annual State of Food Insecurity in the World report by the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. Released in Rome Tuesday, the report by the UN agencies said the proportion of undernourished Cambodians fell from 39.9 percent of the total population in the 1990-1992 period to 17.1 percent in 2010-2012.
Cambodia's service sector has seen significant growth in recent years, but the sector remains hampered by challenges, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The service sector’s real GDP share has expanded to 39 per cent in 2011, compared to 23.7 per cent in 1993, the report said. The sector is predicted to increasingly contribute to growth in 2012 and 2013, according to the report. However, inadequate supporting infrastructure, such as transport and basic utilities, the high cost of electricity and inadequate implementations of policies, laws and regulations and bureaucratic procedures hamper the sector.
Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, has called on France to lobby the Member States of the International Organization of the Francophonie (IOF) to support Cambodia’s candidacy for a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the 2013-2014 mandate.
The appeal was made by the Cambodian premier during a meeting here yesterday with outgoing Ambassador of France to Cambodia H.E. Christian Connan, according to H.E. Sry Thamrong, Delegate Minister Attached to the Prime Minister. If Cambodia wins the seat, the country will be more active in the peacekeeping operations under the UN umbrella, explained Samdech Techo Hun Sen.
Cambodia has been playing the role of Country Coordinator for the ASEAN-Japan Dialogue from 2012 to 2014, H.E. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of MFA-IC told here yesterday a delegation of Cambodian youth for the 39th Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP).
This is an important role to further strengthen the cooperation between Japan and ASEAN, said the Cambodian foreign minister quoted by H.E. Koy Kuong, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. During the meeting, H.E. Hor Namhong also encouraged the delegation to play the role as ambassador at large to boost more regional cooperation and promote Cambodia at the international arena, added the spokesperson.
Cambodian Royal Navy's Commander on Monday afternoon met with visiting Japanese Training Squadron Commander to discuss ways to strengthen and expand bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries' naval forces.
Speaking at the meeting, Cambodian Admiral Tea Vinh said the visit of Japanese self defense ships to Cambodia was a good opportunity to promote bilateral ties in naval forces. Meanwhile, through Japanese Rear Admiral Hidetoshi Fuchinoue, he asked Japan to consider helping Cambodian Royal Navy in training and maritime defense materials. "We need your assistance in any forms in order to strengthen our capacity in defending maritime space and we hope Japan will consider helping us," he said.
A project to rebuild Cambodia's decrepit rail-system appears on track for completion, despite delays and difficulties relocating residents. Through international aid, much of it from Australia, the run-down rail system of the post-Khmer Rouge years is being rebuilt.
The ABC has been told of the $26 million originally allocated through AusAID, just over $14 million remains, and will go towards finishing tracks and building a bridge to help trains carry goods to Cambodia's southern port of Sihanoukville. The project has been underway since 2010, but has been plagued with delays, mostly because of the need to move 4,000 families from areas near the tracks.
French companies are considering plans to invest in a tram system providing comfortable public transport for residents of Phnom Penh, an official said Friday.
Kuy Koung, spokesman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the project was discussed during a meeting between Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and outgoing French Ambassador Christian Connan. The third phase of a study is expected to be undertaken next year, he said.
Cargo shipments via Phnom Penh Autonomous Port (PPAP), Cambodia’s second largest port, rose by 16 per cent year-on-year in the first nine months.
The Port Authority said yesterday the rise was mainly due to the increase of import and export activities for garments, agricultural and construction materials. The official data from the port showed that the port received about 70,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) between January to the end of September this year, an increase 16 per cent, from 60,000 TEUs in the same period last year.
In Southeast Asia, Cambodia is probably one of the most aid dependent countries with 3,000 NGOs registered to the Ministry of Interior by 2011 according to The Phnom Penh Post, without counting on the billions of US dollars poured by donor countries in the different sectors of the country. In a 2002 report of the Council for the Development of Cambodia on NGOs at the time – in 2002 the number of local and international organizations did not reach 1,000 -, the reports stated: ‘NGOs continue to play a major role in supporting the provision of basic social services, often in remote areas and communities, and are present in every province in Cambodia. More importantly, NGOs bring alternative models and approaches to development, emphasizing participation, equity, gender sensitivity and environmental sustainability.’
Khmer Women’s Cooperation for Development (KWCD) and Pact Cambodia on Oct. 10 distribute foodstuff and construction materials donated by Chevron Oil Company, to 40 families after their houses have been recently destroyed by fire in district No. 1 of Preah Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk province.
Radio Free Asia has accused the Cambodian government of intimidation after officials summoned the station and fellow US-funded broadcaster Voice of America to discuss their "professionalism".
"The meeting was nothing more than a blatant attempt to discourage objective reporting on the government," RFA said in a statement sent to AFP late on Wednesday following the meeting. "The Cambodian government clearly does not understand the principles of a free press or the important role of independent media if it thinks it can intimidate RFA and dictate what we can or cannot report on."
US Ambassador William Todd congratulated the inaugural members of his Youth Council Friday as he welcomed the 15 young Cambodians to their first meeting at the embassy.