The Council of Ministers and the Korea Development Institute are to hold a one-day seminar to discuss promoting Cambodia’s small- and medium-scale enterprises, with the goal of supplying products for everyday use locally, instead of relying on imports.
“People here can produce keys, locks, shoes, hats; why should we have to import them?” asked Va Huoth, the president of the Council of Ministers’ Economic, Social and Cultural Observation Unit.
“The aim of the seminar will be to focus on small- to medium-sized businesses,” Va Huoth continued, referring to companies that employ between 10 and 200 workers and use small-scale technology or light machinery.
“There are hundreds of different types of production businesses,” he said. “But the problem is there is no support from the government to modernize industries so they can produce high-quality products, both for local markets and for export.”
The seminar will mark the first time the government has assisted the private, small- to medium- scale sector. Officials say they are not yet clear about the KDI’s role in the meetings, but that the event is still in the planning stages. “First we must study what these businesses need,” Va Huoth said.
Planned properly, though, the event could catalyze an economic sea-change, Va Huoth said. “If we can help small- and medium-scale businesses succeed, it could bring about huge growth in the domestic economy,” he added.
But it won’t be easy to help smaller businesses off the ground, cautioned Hul Lim, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Industry. “It will take two things: Money and human skills,” he said. “I believe providing training and information to smaller businesses is the most important first step.”
People running small- or medium-sized businesses have been invited to share ideas about enlarging output for the local market.
Some local businessmen remain skeptical about the strength of the market that the government wants them supplying.
Lip Phong runs a blacksmith’s workshop in Phnom Penh that works mostly on private commissions. He started his business in 1993, and today employs 10 workers. He said his workshop is capable of producing a wide variety of metal products, including window and door frames and roofs.
But the problem facing his business is a lack of local demand. “We can’t spend money making products for the market if no one is going to buy them,” he said.