Gov’t May Replace Kompong Chhnang Airport Contractor

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said Monday he was considering looking for another company to finance the renovation of the Kompong Chhnang airport because the current contractor had given minimal investment to the potential regional cargo hub.

Speaking after a meeting with a New Zealand trade delegation, the minister said that, after seven years, the current company contracted for the airport renovation, Dragon Gold (Cambodia) Co Ltd, and its partner company, Financial Technology Australia, had so far put in minimal investment.

“The company has paid about half a million dollars within seven years’ time,” Cham Prasidh said. “I may need to cancel [the contract] because now it goes wrong. Now the old contract is too complicated; we are thinking of seeking a new contract.”

Representatives of Dragon Gold declined to comment on the minister’s remarks Monday.

Renovation of the airport, which sits at a crossing of rail, road and river links, could cost as much as $500 million, but so far the airport has received only cosmetic im­provements, Cham Pra­sidh said.

New Zealand’s trade minister, Jim Sutton, is expected to visit the airport today to gauge the investment opportunities it could provide to New Zealand companies.

Sutton and his trade delegation met with Cham Prasidh and other commerce officials to strengthen bilateral trade.

New Zealand companies have the capability of helping Cam­bo­dian businesses with technical support in agriculture, providing food security, as well as opening up a market for Cambodian goods, Cham Prasidh said.

New Zealand has provided Cambodia with a tax-free place for goods through its generalized system of preferences and most-favored nation status.

“The problem is that poor countries don’t have export goods to sell to New Zealand,” Cham Prasidh said.

Still, he said, the country was a good destination for small-scale garment manufacturers that may not be big enough to enter the US or European markets.

Cham Prasidh also took the opportunity to try to calm invest­ors who may be nervous over the war in Iraq.

“The war is not being fought in the Pacific or Southeast Asia,” he said. “It is far away from the US and [Europe], where there is the main market to export clothing. Even though there is war, US citizens are still wearing clothes, and we can still produce the same products for the US.”

The minister also said that, with a short or long war, Cam­bo­dia could benefit from the uneasiness investors might feel when considering Muslim countries. “So American buyers will purchase orders from a peaceful country like Cambodia.”

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