The Council of Ministers released a new policy on Friday aimed at boosting Cambodia’s industrial development beyond the garment and food sectors, placing Preah Sihanouk province at the center of plans to modernize the country’s economy.
The draft policy, “Industrial Sector 2015-2025,” says that the growth of large-scale industry in the country has been slowed by a lack of effective leadership, poor infrastructure and weak human resources.
“The government’s vision is to push, change and modernize Cambodia’s industrial sector from labor-intensive industry to industry based on skills by 2025 through linkages with global value chains and integration into regional production networks,” the plan says.
Preah Sihanouk province—with the country’s largest port, a highway to Phnom Penh, and an international airport—will be transformed into the country’s prime destination for international investment, according to the new policy.
The government will prepare a “master plan for development” that will turn the seaside province into a “multi-purpose Special Economic Zone model,” giving its management the “full rights, power and jurisdiction to garner, attract and mobilize resources of business and investment to develop Preah Sihanouk province to become a key economic pole.”
Provincial governor Chhit Sokhom said that the Japan International Cooperation Agency has assisted in the drafting of the master plan, which will see the province split into an industrial and tourism hub.
“So far, we are drafting master plan so that from the [Sihanoukville Autonomous Port] to the north would be an industrial zone, while from the south of the port down to the border with Kampot would be designated as a tourism zone,” Mr. Sokhom said.
The governor said he realized that recent violence in the province involving foreign businesspeople was a problem, but said that provincial authorities were dealing with the issue.
“Recently, we learned from experiences that foreign investors had disputes, so we learned from those mistakes to make good moves to ensure local and foreign investors are safe to do business here,” he said.
Grant Knuckey, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, said that the province’s security issues were less of an obstacle than finding the necessary investment to build a modern trade hub.
“I think you can separate the commercial aspect of Sihanoukville as a trading center from those aspects which are mostly tourism related,” he said.
As the government looks to boost industry, he said, Sihanoukville “is the right place to focus because it is the international entry point for trade in the country.”
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)