Special Address by H.E. H.E. Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, Kingdom of Cambodia


Nov  3rd

The Honorable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning,
First, on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen, let me begin by saying how honored I am to be here representing Cambodia at the 11th World Islamic Economic Forum today. I bring greetings of peace and prosperity from Prime Minister Hun Sen and the people of Cambodia to all of participants of the 11th WIEF.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the last several decades, the focus of global economic activity has shifted to the emerging markets of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Our global economy today has new poles of economic growth and vitality positioned to become pillars of the future global economy. There are new opportunities, which we are here to discuss and strengthen our economic, political and cultural ties to collectively align ourselves to take advantage of new opportunities for all emerging nations. My country, Cambodia, wishes to join with your countries in forging the new relationships of the 21st Century and beyond.

If we have learned anything about global economies in the past two decades, it is this: Globalization does not mean uniformity. “Best practice” does not mean single-minded thinking. Partnerships serve every partner, or they are not partnerships at all. At this Forum, I hope you will spearhead new ties, new ways of doing business, and new best practices, for a new era of truly inclusive growth for all.

Muslims around the world can, and must, share in global productivity and prosperity and Cambodia is open for Islamic business. This requires economic vehicles of every size, from global alliances to Small and Medium Enterprises. By engaging the young men and women, in our respective countries, who are the heart and power of our future, we cannot only empower them to create social mobility and enhance job prospects but spearhead global economic growth. The business world must make it a priority to answer the needs of our collective young people everywhere, enabling them to secure good jobs, paving the way for bright futures and presenting them with an opportunity to excel and drive our
economies into the future.

Cambodia has already begun going down this path. For us, political and economic reform goes hand-in-hand. We recognize that the single-most powerful generator of inclusive growth and jobs is a real partnership, drawing on the strengths of the private sector, public sector, and civil society. And we in Cambodia are committed to working closely with the private sector to pull our economy forward. The private sector is the locomotive engine of our economic growth.

Our Kingdom, under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s guidance and leadership, offers one of the region’s fastest growing economies averaging more than 7% over the past 10 years and some of the region’s most competitive investment incentive packages, utilizing a non-discriminatory stance for all kinds of investment to open every economic sector for foreign investment. Cambodia offers significant potential for investments into the agriculture and ago-industry, value-added assembly and manufacturing, tourism, infrastructure and mining. Our country is blessed with an abundance of fertile land, natural resources, a trainable and inexpensive labor force, historical sites, national parks, rivers, lakes and pristine beaches. These are some of our nation’s most appealing assets and it is crucial for us to reserve them through sustainable development and present them as lucrative opportunities for investment by all. The World Bank called Cambodia the Olympian of Growth that has the most open investment regime in the region.

We see the Islamic world as important partners in this long-term sustainable economic development platform. Cambodia is a nation of economic and religious freedoms and the government has been actively planning and/or putting policies to create closer ties with the Muslim community. The Ministry of Education just this past July created a platform of collaboration between the Central Council of Muslims of Cambodia and the council Islamic State Federation of Malaysia. It also created a budget and plan with the Development Foundation of Cambodian Muslims to strengthen educational opportunities for Muslim students by constructing more secondary schools.

The Ministry of Commerce completed the Sub Decree to establish a body to certify Halal food in the country. The Sub Decree will be submitted to the cabinet for approval in the near future. Cambodia embraces and respects all cultures and religions. Prime Minister Hun Sen recently proclaimed at the inauguration of the country’s newest and largest mosque: “While religion in some countries of the world is divisive, in Cambodia, I can proudly say that we live together peacefully among all races and religious practices.”

In order to establish a solid foundation for economic growth and to ensure Cambodia’s long-term competitive advantage, the Royal Government of Cambodia has given priority to the development of agriculture and ago-industry, transportation and telecommunication infrastructure, energy and electricity, value-added assembly and manufacturing focused on export industries, tourism, and human resources development. We encourage Islamic nations to work with us to foster greater cooperation and increase cross-border trade and investment. Recently, the government launched the Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025 with the aims of bringing Cambodia to be a Middle Income Country by 2030 and High Income Country by 2050.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We believe that building resilience for equitable growth requires the government to invest in human resources development, information communication technology, and infrastructure. Protecting the environment and adopting free and fair trade are also important.

I wish I could say that Cambodia is a leader in all of these areas. Unfortunately, this is not the case, but we are reform minded and under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s pragmatic leadership, we continue to invest and improve in all of those areas.

The factor that most influences the success of any nation is its Human
Resource Development: The median age of Cambodian is 24.1 years old. We
have young and eager to learn workforce. Whether it is agriculture, industry,
commerce or tourism, English language skills create a competitive advantage for
an emerging nation’s workforce and spur economic growth. My colleague Dr.
Hang Chuon Naron, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport is a pragmatic
reformer who has launched a monumental program entitled the English
Language Initiative which makes English language instruction a mandatory
component of all Cambodian students curriculum in school. While this initiative is
just being launched and will take years to develop, it allows Cambodia to
enhance its future competitive position on a regional and global level. As the
nation’s students increase their English language skills, this will allow us to focus
on value-added technical training at the Nation’s universities and colleges and
create new technology focused curriculum. Another example of resource
development that I am particularly proud of is the internal Ministry of Commerce’s
workshops and training programs which have been launched to develop the skill sets of our own team based on best practices. This training will allow the MOC’s
team to become stronger and better execute its role in developing trade and
investment globally.

ICT and infrastructure go hand-in-hand and closely follow educational development. As the nation’s students increase their English capabilities, one of the countries goals will be to create pilot programs at universities that will focus on ICT software development training where English is a required skill set. A long term plan is to leverage English education to support the ICT system in software development. Cambodia continues to invest in its hard infrastructure to increase connectivity within the country and the world. Roads, bridges, airports, seaports and railways have been upgraded to the international standards. Fiber optic cables continue to be installed. More power plants are being built. With the official launch of the ASEAN Economic Community next month, Cambodia believes that it can play an integral part of the success of the AEC. Our central location in the ASEAN region has us as a natural geographic connector for eastwest trade in ASEAN. Our increasing competitiveness for value-added assembly and manufacturing due to our improving infrastructure and human resource
development will make our nation a natural cost competitive manufacturing hub creating clusters of supporting industrial sectors for the highly developed electronics and automotive sectors in Malaysia and Thailand. We are working with our neighbors on creating efficient models for cross-border labor exchange and increasing the efficiencies of cross border flow of goods. The Ministry of Commerce recently launched an online Certificate of Origin system to streamline export procedures to eliminate opportunities for corruption and delays. We are also launching the online business registration system next month.

While Climate Change is being driven by policies of the larger and more developed economies of the world, Cambodia recognizes the importance of sustainable development and is actively looking at policy changes that will decrease our carbon imprint and play a small but important role in demonstrating that even a small emerging nation can positively impact climate change. Cambodia has historically suffered from an underdeveloped electrical grid and lack of sufficient power supply. Relying on low impact carbon imprint footprint of clean hydro-electric sources, Cambodia is poised to become self-sufficient in electrical generation in the next three years and is actively building out its distribution grid and significantly lowering electrical costs which has been a major detractor to achieving our FDI goals. On top of this, Cambodia is promoting solar energy projects and looking very closely at land reform and zoning as key drivers
of sustainable development as outlined in the 2015 Industrial Development Plan.

Free and Fair Trade, as we all know, has a goal to help producers in developing countries to get a fair price for their products so as to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices. Although customs tariffs have been reduced, Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) have been employed by some countries to the detriment of free trade. Cambodia is a small and open economy and has limited NTMs. The government has established a task force, headed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, to review and eliminate the NTMs to the maximum possible. We urge all countries to do the same to allow trade to flourish in order to create jobs for our respective people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing and on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen, I want to reiterate that even small but emerging economies, like Cambodia, can play a significant role in Building Resilience for Equitable Growth by focusing on the development of the five pillars of sustainable growth which include: Human Resource Development; ICT, infrastructure, protection of environment, and Free and Fair Trade.

Cambodia is a nation of great potential when it comes to growth, investment and development. It will play a role in a peaceful and stable development of East Asia. We are determined to make Cambodia an attractive location for trade and investment and we welcome all attendees at this World Islamic Economic Forum to come to explore opportunities in our dynamic and growing Nation. We are committed to build a brighter future for Cambodian but we cannot do it alone. We need your participation and support. With our commitment and your participation and support, together, we can build a brighter future for Cambodia.

Thank you.