New Project Aims to Help Small Businesses in Cambodia

A new project by the government and Japan’s aid agency seeks to assist small companies in Cam­bodia that are in need of specialist advice in order to develop and keep up with competitors in neighboring Asean countries.

The aim of the two-year program, called “Strategic Strengthening of Small and Medium Enter­prise (SME) Support System,” is to provide free guidance to 10 selected small businesses that are facing issues to help them in­crease productivity, improve management, foster innovation and encourage cooperation between other businesses.

“We believe that SMEs are an important backbone in the creation of economic growth as well as in creating jobs for the Cambodian people, which will help to reduce poverty in the country,” said Masayuki Ishida, Japanese International Cooperation Agency project leader, at a seminar launching the project on Thursday with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

According to Mr. Ishida, about 90 percent of businesses in Cam­bo­dia are small or even micro en­terprises and face a variety of constraints from low productivity to poor business administration.

“In 2015, the Asean community is heading our way and the big question is how can we fit ourselves in,” said Meng Saktheara, director-general of the Ministry of Industry’s department of industry, referring to the 2015 target set by the Asean block for creating a single regional economic market.

“There will be major changes—local businesses must move toward more complicated integration. We must develop and innovate and we must change our business culture because we are not yet good enough to compete,” Mr. Saktheara said.

He added that while Cambodia had about 500,000 SMEs, Thailand, for example, has 2.9 million and has instituted policies to en­courage at least 50,000 more every year. He said it was the responsibility of the Cambodian government to create a favorable atmosphere by creating tax incentives and enforcing international standards of production.

Hak Sovanna, director of LSG Investment and an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim, said he attended the seminar to discover new ways to improve his agricultural business.

“Kampot province recently approved my private company to start an irrigation business in three districts, Kompong Trach, Ban­teay Meas, Angkor Chay and we are now rebuilding canals in those districts to channel water for cultivating the land, after which we will sell fertilizer to farmers and collect money once they harvest their crops,” Mr. Sovanna said.

“If the three districts’ projects are successful, we will expand to other areas, such as Takeo province, so this seminar is very important to learn how to improve the management of my company because this is a new type of experience for Cambodian businesses.”

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