Cambodia is committed to join hands with other ASEAN member states and improve its transportation system to offset the cumulative impact of Covid-19 containment measures and boost regional trade, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
Various Intra-ASEAN discussions are underway on tactics to better facilitate transportation and reduce the increased shipping times and costs driven up by a slew of border restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the ministry said.
These restrictions have obstructed the flow of goods, it said, adding that merchandise that would previously take a day to reach their destination now often requires at least five.
Cambodia is working with Thailand to explore the possibility of temporarily opening the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian international border checkpoint to facilitate the transit of goods across the border, it said.
It is similarly working with Vietnam to open the Prey Vor-Binh Hiep and Prek Chak-Ha Tien international border checkpoints to facilitate the cross-border transportation of goods, tourism, investment, employment opportunities and other forms of cooperation to improve family economies and national economic growth, the ministry added.
“Currently, Cambodia is seeking effective and comprehensive implementation measures to reduce the cost of freight services in the country and promote the implementation of the Royal Government’s Trade Facilitation Policy, in order to enhance the competitive advantage in Cambodia during the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak,” it said.
Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) president Sin Chanthy told The Post on May 18 that national economic activity hinges on the transport industry – an inactive transport sector translates to a dysfunctional economy.
By the same vein, ensuring adequate movement in the sector means boosting economic growth up a couple notches, he said.
Improved infrastructure in the country will bring down prices and cut down on wasted time, and hence slash productions costs, leading to competitive prices and increased potential for Cambodian goods on the international market, he added.
“The transport sector is very important in promoting real economic growth at a difficult time when the government has had to put in place measures to block off travel. Transport activity should not be shut down, because if the sector is bogged down, it will consequently cripple the whole national economy.”
Logistics Business Association (LOBA) president Chea Chandara said the government’s commitment to streamlining and accelerating the transportation system would be an important part in Cambodia’s recovery from Covid-related deficits and initiatives to attract new investment and export more products.
“After Covid-19 ends, the Cambodian transport sector will see a strong acceleration because, in addition to the benefits of the newly-inked free trade agreement [FTA] with China, Cambodia also hopes to acquire new investment opportunities from the companies exiting Myanmar,” he said.
On April 7, the Jakarta-based ASEAN Secretariat, in cooperation with UNESCAP and the International Transport Forum (ITF), hosted a virtual workshop on “Maintaining connectivity for efficient and resilient supply chains” to gather input and find solutions to ASEAN transport problems during the Covid-19 epidemic, with the participation of representatives of all 10 ASEAN countries.
Last year, the total value of Cambodian international trade surged to $35.80585 billion, up by 2.54 per cent over 2019, Ministry of Commerce said in its 2020 annual performance report.
Cambodia exported $17.21537 billion worth of goods last year, up by 16.72 per cent from $14.74874 billion in 2019, while imports slipped 7.84 per cent to $18.59048 billion in 2020 from $20.17181 billion in the year before.
The country’s trade deficit narrowed 74.64 per cent to $1.37511 billion in 2020, from $5.42307 billion in the previous year.