The government was “very proactive” in locking down some areas to fight back against the rise of novel coronavirus infections in the interest of public health, despite inevitable short-term economic losses, the business community has said.
On April 14, the government placed Phnom Penh and Kandal province's Takmao town under lockdown until April 28, and then extended the period to May 5.
Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) deputy secretary-general Kaing Monika told The Post that economic challenges aside, the lockdown was the “right thing” that any leader would do, flagging public health as top priority.
“The government decision is necessary despite the challenge of economic loss. Protection of public health to save lives is more important than anything else.
“What we have been doing are an on-time dissemination of updated regulations and measures with regard to the government lockdown decision for our members' effective implementation.
“Second, at the policy level, we work on wage policy and support allowance based on the principle of humanity, minimum service of logistics serving members nearby or outside the lockdown areas, and of more importance is the roadmap to reopening or post-lockdown measures,” he said.
Given the escalation in daily cases, with only limited testing, the lockdown is “imperative” to curb the outbreak, which is reaching disturbing levels, Anthony Galliano, the CEO of financial services firm Cambodia Investment Management Co Ltd, told The Post.
“This has always been a strategy of balance, keeping the economy breathing while containing the spread and the options available to the government are now greatly limited as transmission accelerates,” he said.
He explained that while the potential of a lockdown has been probable for weeks, it appears there have been some initial “teething pains” a few days in.
An essential service during the lockdown, according to Galliano, restaurant food delivery has been greatly restricted due to citywide travel constraints, an issue he said he hopes can be immediately addressed.
“While there was great optimism that the Kingdom would be barely impacted socially and economically during the first year of pandemic, that hypothesis has been significantly disrupted.
“Unquestionably the measures taken, the curfew and lockdown, are essential for the long-term security and safety of the nation. The government has acted absolutely correctly and in the best interest of the people,” he said.
But the government on April 25 lifted an inter-provincial travel ban and closures of tourist attractions across the country. Still, if Covid-19 cases rise, local authorities are authorised to impose lockdown on places highest at risk of spreading the contagion.
GMAC's Monika said workers and employees have received government support, and that the association has appealed to all factories to consider chipping in additional provisions.
“We called on all buyers to not penalise our members for not being able to comply with the originally agreed schedule of delivery.”
“It's already hit hard on our export. But what's even more challenging is the uncertainty and unpredictability of our future production in the coming months.
“We can soon start, partially or whatever, but it has to be with the assurance that our working environment is safe. Overall, it's a big complicated task, but I think together we can overcome this hurdle.
“I believe vaccination will be very quick with the additional force from the military side,” he said.
And the temporary economic setbacks come with a silver lining.
Asian Development Bank on April 28 projected that Cambodia's economy is forecast to grow 4.0 per cent this year and 5.5 per cent in 2022, as economic recoveries in major trading partners boost demand for the Kingdom's exports.
The bank said industrial production is expected to rise 7.1 per cent in 2021 and 7.0 per cent in 2022 on the back of a rebound in the garments, footwear and travel goods sector, as well as growth in other light manufacturing such as electronics and bicycles.