The government has stuck to its guns through the thick and thin of Covid-19, pushing to turn crisis into opportunity for economic growth, by spurring sweeping reforms, improving the business environment and strengthening competitiveness in international markets, in efforts underpinned by pandemic management world-renown for its effectiveness, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The premier was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Cambodia Outlook Conference 2022, held in the capital on October 6 under the theme “Revitalising Cambodia: Sustaining Development After Covid-19”.

Cambodia had maintained an average annual economic growth rate above seven per cent in the two decades leading to Covid, and graduated from a low-income country to a lower middle-income economy in 2015, Hun Sen recapped.

Although the government subsequently set a vision to transform the Kingdom into a high-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income economy by 2050, Covid-19 created many roadblocks that could veer the journey off course, he lamented.

Moreover, the Ukraine conflict, heightened oil prices, inflation, climate change and a host of other challenges confronting the world today are exerting downward pressure on living conditions, especially of poor and vulnerable populations, he added.

On the other hand, he commented on the attractiveness to businesses of the incentives and protections afforded by the new Law on Investment promulgated in October 2021, adding that the government is encouraging the implementation of focal strategic policies, along with development in the energy-efficiency space as well as the garment, automotive, electronics, agriculture, tourism and post sectors, and other key areas.

On the international trade front, he said, Cambodia has signed on to three major deals – free trade agreements (FTA) with China and South Korea, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest FTA in world history.

“Going forward, against the backdrop of heightened complexities and uncertainty, the Royal Government will prioritise building resilience in the national economy, as defined in ‘The Strategic Framework and Programmes for Economic Recovery in the Context of Living with Covid-19 in a New Normal 2021-2023’,” Hun Sen said, referring to a comprehensive roadmap designed to safely guide the economy as the novel coronavirus becomes endemic.

Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) chairman Mey Kalyan underscored that the premier’s participation and recommendations are vital for the CDRI to devise the research and analysis principles needed to ensure the added value of its involvement in the formulation process for national sustainable development strategies and policies.

Kalyan was optimistic that the Cambodia Outlook Conference 2022 would provide valuable inputs and recommendations from national and international speakers to develop policy and strategy frameworks to drive post-Covid economic recovery and regain growth momentum.

“[The event] will also be an opportunity for Cambodia to share its input, experiences and successes in Covid-19 control,” he said.

Similarly, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng believes that the Cambodia Outlook Conference 2022 provided innovative ideas that the government could apply to promptly formulate adequate economic development policies.

In addition, the Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF) public-private consultation mechanism is also available for the business community to meet with officials and jointly develop new goals and strategies, he noted.

Given the current circumstances, the pace of development will pick up from next year, Heng predicted, telling The Post: “With better policies and strategy, the government’s aspiration to lead the country to prosperity will soon come to fruition.”