An upcoming key meeting between prominent members of the Cambodian and Maldivian business communities is expected to open up greater trade and tourism opportunities between the two countries.
The January 16 Cambodia-Maldives Business Forum is scheduled for the second day of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s three-day official visit to the archipelago nation, accompanied by senior members of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) – the Kingdom’s apex trade body.
The CCC confirmed in a January 15 statement that its delegation to the Maldives is headed by its president Kith Meng, and that it would organise the forum in collaboration with the Maldivian Ministry of Economic Development.
To be chaired by Maldivian economic minister Fayyaz Ismail and attended by senior Cambodian and Maldivian officials, the forum aims to explore business and investment opportunities as well as sectors with the greatest expected potential, the statement said.
It added that the CCC is due to ink a memorandum of understanding with the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) “to promote and enhance industrial, business and economic cooperation between the” two countries.
CCC director-general Nguon Meng Tech, who is not on the trip, sees the business forum as a valuable step in improving cooperation between the two countries in all areas, especially in tourism.
Speaking to The Post on January 15, Meng Tech suggested that the two countries leverage their tourism strengths and work together to market their offerings and bring in travellers, underlining history and culture as potential areas of focus for the Kingdom.
“Through this partnership, we can also convince visitors to the Maldives to continue on to the temples and natural world of Cambodia,” he said.
The Maldives’ position as a major international tourism destination also provides an opportunity for Cambodian agricultural producers to tap into potential market demand for, among other things, milled rice, fruits, vegetables, and other food items, he pointed out.
On September 20, the two countries had affirmed commitment to look into new avenues of cooperation, including direct commercial flights and investment in export-oriented rice mills in the Kingdom.
This came during a bilateral meeting between Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in New York City.
In April, the Ministry of Tourism made a similar affirmation that direct commercial flights are on the cards, following a meeting between minister Thong Khon and Maldivian ambassador to Cambodia with residence in Bangkok, Mohamed Jinah.
“We encourage reciprocal flights. Although the Maldives is a small country, it boasts numerous islands, so at a later date we could go learn from and experience the development of the country’s islands, and then develop islands in Cambodia,” the ministry quoted Khon as saying.
Straddling the equator in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives stretches along a length of 871km north-to-south and covers an area of around 90,000sq km, only 298sq km of which is dry land.
Most of the Maldives’ 1,192 islands form part of a double chain of 26 atolls that are grouped together into 21 administrative areas. The country’s current population is just over 565,700 as of January 15, based on Worldometer’s elaboration of the latest UN data.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates the country’s 2022 gross domestic product (GDP) at $5.502 billion and the per-capita GDP at $14,078.
The Maldivian economy is heavily reliant on services, which account for 70.76 per cent of GDP – tourism alone representing 28 per cent – with secondary sectors agriculture, industry and manufacturing respectively comprising eight per cent, 11.83 per cent and 2.49 per cent, according to the US’ Michigan State University.