A new special economic zone being co-developed by a Chinese company and a Cambodian firm in Sihanoukville will be the country’s biggest and could pull in billions of investment dollars, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Six Chinese companies have already signed contracts to invest $320 million in establishing their businesses in the SEZ, which could create up to 80,000 jobs by 2015, Hun Sen said at a groundbreaking ceremony for the SEZ on Saturday.
“By the end of this year, we hope to have 30 companies based in the SEZ,” he said. Within seven years, 300 companies are expected to set up operations over 11 square km, Hun Sen said, adding that the zone could attract up to $3 billion in investment to Cambodia.
Chinese co-developer Jiangsu Taihu Cambodia International Economic Cooperation Investment Co Ltd will provide infrastructure at the site along with Cambodia International Investment Group Ltd, according to a statement from the Chinese developer.
The new Sihanoukville SEZ is the latest of several zones planned or established in Kandal, Kampot, Svay Rieng, Takeo, Kompong Cham, Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, and Banteay Meanchey.
Investors in Cambodia’s SEZs are entitled to tax breaks on profits; duty-free imports of construction, production and transportation equipment; long-term leases on land; and a “one-stop service” giving investors easy access to government taxation and customs services.
Plans are for the Sihanoukville SEZ in Prey Nop district to include an exhibition center, a financial center, hospitals, research facilities, vocational training centers and local administration centers, according to a statement from the zone’s Chinese co-developer.
“This can be the same size as Sihanoukville city,” Hun Sen said of the SEZ, adding that Chinese companies were the best to do business with in such ventures because they regarded Cambodian companies as equal partners.
“The Chinese speak little, but they have done a lot [here],” he said. “There are many other people in the world who speak a lot but do very little.”
Jimmy Gao, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Phnom Penh, said the new SEZ would give a significant boost to Cambodia’s ability to attract investors from overseas.
“This [SEZ] is good not just for Chinese companies but also for all investors from all countries who want to do business here,” he said.
In Gao’s opinion, the project shows further improvement in relations between Cambodia and China and, although there was no particular incentive for Chinese companies to set up at the SEZ, Hun Sen’s expectations for it are reasonable.
“It is a big project, so it will take time to see the benefits,” he said.
A Chinese embassy official who asked not to be named, referred questions to the Council for the Development of Cambodia. CDC officials could not be reached Sunday.