Opening Remarks by Samdech Techo HUN SEN At the 2022 Cambodia Outlook Conference Under the Theme “Revitalising Cambodia: Sustaining Development After COVID-19”

Opening Remarks by Samdech Techo HUN SEN Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia At the 2022 Cambodia Outlook Conference Under the Theme “Revitalising Cambodia: Sustaining Development After COVID-19”
Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence, 6 October 2022

– Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today, I am truly pleased to preside over the Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Cambodia Outlook Conference under the theme “Revitalising Cambodia: Sustaining Development After COVID-19”. I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), G Gear Group, Chip Mong Group and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for organizing this important conference.
Personally, I have presided over the opening ceremony of such conference many times because the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) considers the conference an important event in Cambodia, giving us opportunities to review and discuss about Cambodia’s achievements, challenges and development directions to ensure sustainable development, especially in a context that we need to rethink about the development in a new normal in the aftermath the COVID-19 crisis. Taking this opportunity, I would like to extend a warm welcome to leaders from the RGC, private sector, research institutes, national and international organizations and development partners, who attend physically this conference in Phnom Penh now.
– Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

To recover and move towards to a sustainable and inclusive development require addressing complex global challenges through cooperation, solidarity and unity in seeking solutions. In this spirit, even though we have not opened the discussion and have no specific solution yet, I would like to share that the Kingdom of Cambodia was able to advance rapidly, and to effectively manage the spread of COVID-19 through the introduction of correct and timely policies.
In order to direct the course of socio-economic development in Cambodia, the RGC has already adopted four phases of the Rectangular Strategy. In each phase, the RGC always identifies “People” as one of the four priorities, namely Road, Water, Electricity and People. Particularly, from the third phase onward, the RGC has identified “people” as the top priority, by focusing on human resource development, job creation and poverty reduction. In fact, Cambodia has created jobs for millions of people, especially in the garment and footwear sector, agriculture and tourism, which have contributed in reducing remarkably poverty from 53.2% in 2004 to just 17.8% in 2020. At the same time, over the last two decades before COVID-19, Cambodia has achieved a growth rate of more than 7% per year, which has changed the status of Cambodia from a least developed country (LDC) to a lower-middle income country in 2015.
With these magnificent achievements, the RGC has set its visions of turning Cambodia into an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050. Nevertheless, in the last few years, with the spread of COVID-19, the journey towards these visions may be hampered. Indeed, in 2020, this deadly disease caused Cambodia’s economy to decline into the negative territory by 3.1%, which was the first negative growth over the last two decades.
In response, in addition to health measures, the RGC introduced a series of socio-economic intervention measures to stabilize the livelihoods of workers as well as poor and vulnerable families. Concurrently, the RGC mobilized all national forces to launch the National Vaccination Campaign and built a strong herd immunity throughout the country. This achievement has allowed Cambodia to reopen the country fully and safely in all fields since 1 November 2021 until today, and has made Cambodia’s economy recover gradually with resilience and strength. As a result, Cambodia’s economy grows at a positive rate of 3% in 2021, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance has forecasted that Cambodia’s economy will likely continue to grow around 5% and 6% in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

– Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

In the last few years, our entire world faced a series of challenges. Although COVID-19 has subsided, other challenges have been emerging, such as the Russia-Ukraine war, rising fuel prices and inflationary pressures, as well as climate change and natural disasters, which have been putting further pressures on the lives and livelihoods of our people, especially the poor and vulnerable people.
Cambodia is considered as a leading country in managing and recovering from the COVID-19 crisis. In the context that many countries around the world continue to suffer from the outbreaks, the RGC has been trying to transform the crisis into opportunities, by accelerating in-depth reforms to improve the business climate and strengthen Cambodia’s competitiveness. For instance, in October 2021, Cambodia enacted the Law on Investment of the Kingdom of Cambodia, a new investment law, that sets out specific and clear incentives and protections for investors, in order to promote investment attraction in Cambodia. In addition, the RGC has also set out and has been promoting the implementation of policies and strategies for the development of key sectors such as garments, automobiles, electronics, agriculture, tourism, posts, energy efficiency, and so on.

Within the framework of international trade, Cambodia has become a signatory to (1). The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, the largest free trade agreement in global history, (2). Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement, and (3) Cambodia-Korea Free Trade Agreement.
For the way forward, in a situation full of complexity and high uncertainties, the RGC will prioritize building national economic resilience, as set out in “the Strategic Framework and Programs for Economic Recovery in the Context of Living with Covid-19 in a New Normal 2021-2023”.
As additional inputs for today’s conference, I would like to share the thoughts and directions of the RGC as follows:
1. In addition to vaccination, the RGC will further invest in the healthcare sector to develop a strong healthcare system that can help and protect the population from COVID-19, as well as other pandemics that may occur in the future;
2. The development of the social protection system is investing and providing economic security to the people, especially poor and vulnerable families. In this spirit, the RGC will continue to strengthen and expand the coverage of the social assistance and social security systems in a more targeted manner, especially by encouraging and incentivizing those in the informal economy to formalize in order to receive protections;
3. Human resource development in both knowledge and skills is an indispensable factor in boosting economic productivity and shifting the economic structure from a low-skilled and labor-intensive economy to a skill-based and technology-based economy;
4. Although Cambodia’s economy relies heavily on foreign direct investments and exports, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the economy, contributing significantly to the creation of occupations and jobs for Cambodian people. In this regards, the RGC has identified the development of SMEs as a top priority, by providing technical and financial supports, improving the business climate, encouraging participations in the formal economy and so on;
5. Digital technology has rapidly advanced and become a catalyst for economic growth. At any level of development, digital technology has great and broad potentials to enable emerging or developing economies to embrace new technologies and leapfrog from traditional industries to modern industries in a very short period of time. Therefore, Cambodia must seize this great opportunity by promoting the implementation of the “Cambodia Digital Economy and Society Policy Framework 2021 – 2035”, “Cambodia Digital Government Policy 2022 – 2035” and other related polices;
6. Promoting green economic development and climate resilience are an essential part of assisting sustainable socio-economic development, through supports of the expansion of cooperation on building green infrastructure, promoting energy transitions, using green technology, and so on; and
7. The big tasks I have mentioned above truly require financial resources from both private and public sectors. Therefore, continuing to strengthen stability and diversification of the financial sector, and developing a resilient and inclusive financial sector as a whole, with participation from the private sector, are very crucial. At the same time, the implementation of the Public Financial Management Reform (PFM) Program has achieved good results, allowing the RGC to allocate more funds to priority sectors, increasing public investments, saving, promoting Cambodia’s independence in terms of budget and implement policies and interventions to help the people and private sector who have been suffering from the COVID-19 crisis. In this sense, the successful implementation of major objectives of the PFM Program will certainly make a significant contribution to Cambodia’s future socio-economic development.

– Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
The achievements that Cambodia has made to date are results of cooperation from the private sector, research institutes, national and international organizations, development partners, our friendly countries, and especially the Cambodian people. On this basis, as the Chair of ASEAN in 2022, Cambodia has set the theme “ASEAN A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together” to promote participations from all corners and key stakeholders. I hope that today’s conference will run smoothly, and have active participations in discussions and exchanges of views and experiences, to achieve together fruitful results.
Finally, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and all Distinguished Guests successes in all endeavors and the four Buddha blessings, namely Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.
I would like to announce the Opening of the 2022 Cambodia Outlook Conference from now on.
Thank You!