Selected Keynote Address Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the 18th RGC-Private Sectors Meeting [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV:

In addition to the prepared text, Samdech Techo made extempore elaborations summing up the 18th Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC)-Private Sector meeting with unofficial selection and translation as followed:

[C1]

I thank Oknha Van Sou Ieng for his intervention and proposals. Before I go into summing up on topics and issues discussed by the 18th RGC-Private Sector meeting, I wish to give you a bit of my impression. The three speakers – Oknha Kith Meng, Mr Bret Scaronie, and Oknha Van Sou Ieng have all given their impressions about resuming the meeting and wished it to happen regularly. I accepted their requests with pleasure. Though the concerned working groups (between the RGC and private sectors) have been working together and resolving numerous problems together, a yearly regular meeting of this kind is still necessary. HE Aun Porn Moniroth (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance) and HE Sok Chenda (of the Cambodia Development Council) have to act on this request and organize the meeting. We should aim to hold the meeting in February or March. February is better […]

Relating to this forum, Mr. Bret Scaronie has just impressed us that such meeting between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the private sector seen abroad as the number 1 forum of its kind. It is a fact. We have created a mechanism that decisions made in this forum are equal to those made in the Cabinet meetings. The private sector plays important role in making policies and drafting laws. The news (that Bret Scaronie) brought is a flavored coffee to us today for those who accepted the fact but a poisonous herbs for the ones who discredit Cambodia out there […]

I should remind that in late 1998, after the first Cabinet meeting on 2 December 1998, I have laid down a triangular strategy. The first angle was to realize peace in Cambodia. Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, and other leaders had not yet given themselves to peace yet. They did so on 29 December 1998 […] the second angle was to realize as quick as we could integration of Cambodia into international fora. Cambodia, since 1970s, fought to occupy the seat at every international forum. That we have united our land and water, we no longer have this issue of fighting for seat. We have acted swiftly and we have fulfilled our aims of being in ASEAN, Asia-Europe Meeting, World Trade Organization, etc. […] the third angle was to reap the above two achievements of internal and external favors to concentrate efforts for socio-economic development and poverty reduction. That is where we needed to attract private investments […]

We have conducted numerous meetings between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the private sectors […] and we had so many issue to tackle. There have been many doors and windows (in business operations and facilitation). It was a headache. However, thanks to the RGC-Private Sector mechanism, we have been able to improve (investment) environment and come to a one-window operations. That was the efficiency realized through the mechanism. It is worth the “number 1” remark given out there. We must make further efforts to keep this number 1 status. We must continue to keep the forum’s momentum and efficiency that is not for only consultation by decisions making. We are making decisions together on a number of issues to today for the future of our economy.

We have here today the presence of the Ambassador of Turkey. I thank her for the efforts she made in facilitating negotiation (between EDC – Electricite du Cambodge) and Turkish company (about power ship business) to address shortage of electricity in Cambodia. They have reached a deal. I have instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft to prepare letters for me thanking the President of Turkey for the support the Turkish company has offered. To address shortage of electricity, we will bring in a power ship of 200 megawatts to Phnom Penh (to provide us electricity) no less than three years. I will sign the letter here and thank the Turkish Ambassador for delivering it to the President […]

On the same token, I wish to inform the Japanese Ambassador that I will make my presence in Tokyo, where, as part of a wider working visit, the Cambodia Development Council and Mizuho Bank will organize a seminar regarding investments for about 300 participants on 29 May 2019 at the New Otani Hotel, Tokyo. I have other business to attend to but I will conduct the seminar about investment first […]

[C2]

Terminal Handling Charge – THC

I urge continued dialogue (regarding THC) because the transport companies have sounded out their possibilities to go down further in prices if the two ports (in Cambodia) are doing likewise. I am asking the two ports to reconsider their prices ranges. We are not after profits making by the ports while neglecting the whole economy. We could go for smaller profit from ports but bigger gain for our economy as a whole […]

[C3]

Reducing Prices of Electricity

To respond to growing short and medium-term needs for electricity, as I have said, we have sealed the deal with the Republic of Turkey. I visited the country last year and the President has been very cordial. While sending a note of thank you to him, I also prepare to do the same for Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc to sell us an additional 50 to 100 megawatts of electricity op top of the current provision of 200 megawatts. We also have done the same for Thailand and Laos. I hope we will proceed on this as quickly as it can be. The Cabinet will meet next week, 5 April 2019, to give decision to a number of investment projects (relating to electricity) – a hydropower station in Pursat, gas-fueled power plants, and a number of solar power generation projects […]

[C4]

Development of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises

Let me add on this point that SMEs must register or they will not receive any incentives as we have already defined. They would not have right to borrow money from banks as well. Being registered, SMEs would benefit from tax favor and bank loans […]

[C5]

Trade Facilitation Measures under Customs Competency

As far as containers are involved, let me stress that aside from reducing costs of 50% for containers scanning, from 20 USD to 10 USD and 32 USD to 16 USD, we also will have saved time […] we will apply risk management scanning method […] companies doing scanning, please think about economic profit for the country as a whole. If they are worried about losing income from applying risk management scanning method, they will not. Gaining time is what we are after here. There might be feeling that why do they take money if they do not scan the containers. Let me ask if you prefer to log horn in a process of two or just in one […] we are doing this to expedite goods loading process […] if it is required by some countries to scan, we will do it. Otherwise, we apply risk management scanning method […] after adding everything up we have come to a figure of roughly 400 million USD of costs reduction […]

Losing No Independence and National Sovereignty for Favor

If EU decides for our companies to pay taxes, we could just do that. Let us not worry too much. We should not let others to guide us around what to do and threaten to do this and that on us. In trade, we pay them taxes and they pay us taxes too. Should they keep favor for us, it is even better but we cannot allow that to become an order for us to obey or to be threatened […] Cambodia’s past was so much suffering. Getting out of the Pol Pot’s genocide, they embargoed Cambodia politically and economically. Cambodia survived. We stood up from a city of only 70 people. We would not allow anyone to command us what to do. We will not trade national independence and sovereignty with anything at all. We may have to tie our waist to reduce food intake to keep national independence. Any persons bowing heads for favor must not be the Cambodian leader. We are not narrow-minded nationalists […]

Welcome Inputs from Partners

On this matter, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the late King-Father, under his rule, asked foreign countries (threatening with aid cut) to sever their assistance instead of bending to anyone’s feet. We must follow his teaching […] we must strive with our own efforts […] whether there will or will not be favors, Cambodia will have to make own efforts to advance. Cambodia needs partners […] I have instructed in writing […] that “concerns of others are not political lines for Cambodia to implement.” We thank people telling us their concerns but they are not everything for us to do. We will heed their advices if they are not in violation of national sovereignty […] my endeavor for Cambodian national independence has made some unhappy. I do not listen to their advices. I will listen to matters that are worth listening for Cambodia. I need inputs from friends beside friends’ financial assistance. However, those inputs should not come as violations of national sovereignty. It had happened in the past. They did not release funds for so and so projects. I canceled the projects […]

[C6]

Reducing Listed Goods for Inspection

Sometimes Prime Minister has to decide. Ministries listed goods of nearly 2,000 items for inspections […] we have now reduced them to about 500 items. Some goods required no inspection […] taking what we call a process of one commander and chief of general staff, we decided to cut some of them out. We know what type of goods listed for inspections. It is not reasonable (to go on to do so). Some in the private sectors have complained because the process would hold their goods. Trade facilitation is not there […]

[C7]

Reducing Number of Holidays and Days

On this point, I am asking civil servants, the armed forces, and workers to think of our country’s situation. Previously, we had not many holidays/days per year. However, for later observations, we have increased the number of holidays/days. That has now constrained our efforts for national economic progress. We need to save seven days from our current number of national holidays/days. According to our calculation, the seven days saved will ensure a 0.5% gain in our economic growth. With this gain, GDP would stay between 6.5% and 7% in 2020 […]

[C8]

Factories Inspections

Starting from now, if there are more than one inspections teams, we must put them together. You may remember our meeting at (CDC office) at Wat Phnom, we dealt with this issue that before closing a container, there must be inspections from the customs, Camcontrol, economic police, etc. […] I decided then to group them all in one, and if anyone in the group is absent, the rest in the group would approve on the absentee’s behalf […]

[C9]

MLVT to Determine Inspections Teams

The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MLVT), from this moment, must determine what to inspect, and what not to inspect. MLVT should not keep to many issues in the inspected list. Factories management already know about their risk managements and we must trust them. They would not allow their factories to fall. For instance, if before the inspections would look at ten things, it would take a lot of time. A reduction of issues to inspect would save us time and not disturb the production process. Let us leave the responsibility mostly to the factories managements […]

[C10]

Minimum Wages in Garments

On this matter (of preparing minimum wages according to geographical locations), a number of countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, India, etc. have already implemented it. They have defined minimum wages according to geographical locations […] I just have your attention that we cannot take actions on wages for locations already approved earlier. We may do so for new locations where there are nor factories and/or enterprises yet […] the point for workers to think about here is the benefit of not having to move to other places for jobs though they may get less wages […]

[C11]

Agricultural Development

Let me trace back a bit. Despites the many favors the state has provided, we need to give more heed to using market potential for exports. We have exported more rice this year compared to last year. That the EU decided to impose tax (on rice from Cambodia) has not had major impacts. It is not because of the EBA thing but the Italian protectionist policy on its rice that is against the justice principle of World Trade Organization. There have been requests from companies in the Cambodian Rice Federations to sue this matter to WTO. I would urge Minister of Trade, HE Pan Sosak to look into this matter […] we must reap market potentials offered by Vietnam and China […] I just had negotiation with the Republic of Korea for agricultural produce such as mangos. Japanese companies have come to produce themselves and sell to markets in Japan. I will go to Tajikistan for a meeting and will tour the Eurasia region to develop more partners […]

[C12]

Railway Transport

On this issue, let me clarify a few things to avoid misunderstanding on Oknha Kith Meng. What I had suspected has now become a real happening […] I had in fact intended to end contract (concerning rail transport development) since 2010 for lack of transparency from the beginning. In order to access 141 million USD fund, we had to run a closed auction for only three companies – Australia, France, and Belgium. They allowed no state-related companies to bid. In that instance, companies from India, China, and Japan had had no chances […]

When the state managed the railway, though our rail were not in good condition, in addition to the fact that the Pol Pot’s forces disconnected it five times a day, we could still keep it running. Why when the country is in peace, we could not get it running? […] I let it go. Finally, we could only have one direction of rail and not the other […] Kith Meng just supplied a few locomotives and wagons, while the rest are state’s properties. It is not Kith Meng’s mistake. The situation had brought us there […] if we leave it like this, Kith Meng would fall and we would too […] in fact, it relieved him from a crumbling rock left by Toll Holding Limited […] conduction of negotiation to compensate his investments will proceed. Oknha Kith Meng may want to bid for the chance again later. We will not run a closed bidding process as before […]

I would advise (Deputy Prime Minister and Finance and Economy Minister) HE Aun Pornmoniroth to use reserved fund of the Royal Government to expedite process of acquiring more locomotives. The Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan O-Cha has offered some used locomotives and we must hurry to bring them in […] Prime Minister Prayuth is to sit in a train to cross the border between our countries together with me. I have taken the responsibility to compose a song. I did. We just wait for the time to come […] we are asking the Vietnamese ambassador here to convey my request to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to consider providing Cambodia with some wagons since we are using similar length of track gauge. We have the Chinese ambassador here, maybe China can provide us some of your old locomotives […] I will ask Tokyo for it too. We need to rail goods to and from Poipet to Kompong Som […] how much time do we need, (Senior Minister and Minister of Transport and Public Works) HE Sun Chanthol? I need it to get up and working in a speedy manner. We are getting close to the Khmer New Year. I have promised workers and people for a five-day free-of-charge journey to and from their native villages on rails during the Khmer New Year […]

[C13]

Forthcoming Reforms Measures

Let me talk a bit about economic incentives or impetuses. Economists surely know what it means. For instance, we need to promote agriculture, for instance rubber. If we impose higher tax on cashew nut, while rubber is tax lower, farmers would plant more rubber […] the same is true for service, bank, and tourism sectors. If we provide equal incentives across the board, we would lose the momentum […] I am not an economist by training but with bare hand, we stood up from war and economic and political embargoes. We moved from a centrally planned to market economy. We are in the process of improving market economy […]

Running economy in shock would destabilize macro-economy. We cannot lose our mind from hearing about economic crisis here and there and that they will come. We know they will come but we must stay clear and sharp to think about and take risk management actions […] in 2009, crisis had stopped our growth at only 0.1% […] one year later, we have recorded growth of 6.9%, and gradually to the present 7%. We must seek ways to evade impacts from crisis […] we must not be shocked and lose our mind. To lead an economy is no different from to lead an army […]

[C14]

We talked about inspection and there are many groups coming at different or same times to do their jobs. Now we have this process of registration at one place to avoid repeating same information to different people […] we are going online to reduce concerns of investors and to increase efficiency […] tax income for March is coming into my phone as of yesterday was 372 million USD. As of now, it has come up to 400 million USD. Some ill-thinking people said I received 600 million USD from my visit to China […] let me tell them I never use foreign money for salary. They even fooled our people on the 700 million USD credit offered by the President of the Republic of Korea […] my way of accounting is spending 8 while earning 10. We have a surplus of roughly 700 to 800 million USD per annum for Cambodia’s own investments. We have to increase capacity gradually to reduce leaning on others […] it has not been a dirty governance. We are not managing our economy the way we called “there are many holes in our basket.” We need saving to share a counterpart fund to access and use foreign loans and financings […] which sometimes requires a sharing of 20% or even 30% to the projects […]

[C15]

Let me stay on this issue a little bit. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has come to a stall after the US (President) Donald Trump decided to leave it. It continues in a different mode though. Cambodia regretted before that they have invited only some ASEAN countries to participate. As of now, with other partners, we have decided to stick to one common position – if we were to join, every ASEAN member state would join altogether. APEC has divided ASEAN too as some are and some are not its members […] as for UK in particular, though they are preparing for Brexit, UK sent its envoy to ensure us that UK would go on implement trade regime as it used to […] let us work together to seek more partners. We are keeping old ones, finding new ones, and extending our market coverage to the Middle East […]

[C16]

By Law on E-Commerce

On this front, I would like to go not only to e-commerce or e-government, but also to e-people. It is a requirement for social progress. As a state, there must be efforts to promote e-mediums everywhere and civil servants must learn to be ones […]

[C17&18]

On this note, aside from conducting a regular meeting of the ten working groups (of the RGC and Private Sectors mechanism), I have agreed on conducting another meeting next year and years to come […] should there be matters require attentions, we could go for meeting twice a year. I mean, at least, we will have one meeting a year. However, I think one meeting is quite clear and enough […] in this term of the Royal Government we still have four meetings to go – in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 […]

[C19]

Cambodia is busy working on internal issues and on international relations based on equality and equal footing. We, in addition to these, are also providing help, under the umbrella of the United Nations, to friends in difficulties. As of this moment, Samdech Pichey Sena Tia Banh is still in New York regarding this issue (of the UN peacekeeping operations). Risk has gone high for our troops in Mali. We just release some 15 million USD fund for the purchase of armored vehicles for our troops. We are taking responsibilities as a state taking part in peacekeeping operation in the world.

I hope that this sounds out to our friends that Cambodia is a country with international obligation at hand. We have taken responsibility of financing our peacekeeping troops while the UN Security Council cannot address it for its financial difficulties […]. Even though carrying out reforms require financial and human resources, we are still sharing […] we will not withdraw peacekeeping troops from anyone country that we are in operation. I am of the thought to send peacekeeping troops to Yemen, should they reach peace agreement there […]

(Probably I can ask) those countries thinking of punishing Cambodia this question about Cambodia being a member of the United Nations and helping friends in the world? If Cambodia were to suffer punishment of some sorts, would it be worthwhile for Cambodia to serve this honorable task? […] how many standard would there be? They should rethink their moves. Cambodia has its peacekeeping troops in Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Lebanon, and is preparing to join a quick operation team too […] in ASEAN, Cambodia has had more than ten years history of having troops serving in (the UN) peacekeeping operations. We have fulfilled responsibly this international obligation. Some have considered Cambodia a strange beast instead […] I am sorry that I used this language but […] Cambodia, while engaging in internal affairs and international relations on the basis of equality and equal footing, has, under the UN umbrella, assisted friends too […]

[C20]

In just a few more days, we will put the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge, about to finish repairing or we can say almost rebuilding, into official use on 3 April. We will cross the bridge altogether before the Khmer New Year. Let us celebrate the Khmer New Year this year with joys and well wishing. I wish you all a happy new year, good health and successes in every endeavors you may have […]./.