Noting Cambodia is one of the poorer countries in Asean, Finance Minister Keat Chhon urged Thursday that Cambodia work on improving productivity and eliminating corruption to attract foreign investment.
The senior minister, who recently returned from the informal Asean summit in Manila, said Cambodia needs to get rid of its negative image as a “high labor costs, poor productivity” area in order to compete with other Asean countries.
“Since 1997 we have prepared ourselves to be a member of Asean,” Keat Chhon said in his keynote speech at the two-day National Conference on Investment in Cambodia. “But we can’t catch up with the rich Asean group….We have to do our best to compete with other Asean countries.”
High productivity, he said, is a key to attracting foreign investment, expected to increase as the regional economy rebounds. He said the government should encourage human resource development and technology transfer in agri-industry and other labor-intensive industries such as garment manufacturing.
Garment manufacturing is the leading industry in Cambodia with a 95 percent share of the $500 million expected export volume in 1999, said Khek Ravy, secretary of state for the Commerce Ministry.
Keat Chhon also said good governance such as eliminating corruption and promoting effective public service must be accomplished to attract investors.
“Cambodia lives in the ‘casino economy’ where investors come quickly and leave quickly,” Keat Chhon said. “We want to have longterm investment…We want investment rooted in Cambodia’s economy.”
During the two-day conference which ends today, government officials, research fellows and private investors are discussing the investment climate in Cambodia.
Jeffrey Kaplan, former economic adviser to the Finance Ministry, stressed that untransparent decision-making at the government and unequal treatment between local and foreign investors are some of major concerns among investors here.