The far too frequent inspections of mining sites by the different sets of authorities and exceedingly high costs of the equipment required to supply electricity to mining- and energy-related businesses remain a couple of the predominant issues hobbling the sector.

THE Government-Private Sector Working Group J (GPSWG-J), on mineral resources and energy, addressed some of the sector’s biggest headaches at a virtual meeting on October 19, where representatives of the business world lobbied the state for a reprieve to help private enterprises get back on their feet as Covid-19 wears on.

The meeting was attended by GPSWG-J co-chairs Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem and government representative Un Yuthy; Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) leaders; representatives of Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), as well as the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia and other private sector entities; and many other stakeholders.

CCC vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on October 20 that many of these businesses, in states of temporary closure or partial operation, had spent beyond their means on electrical equipment and connections, resorting to borrowing from financial institutions.

This was especially true of smaller firms looking to expand their business, he said, adding that the meeting heard calls for the government to help with the associated costs.

Additionally, the private sector called for inspections at mining areas to be conducted jointly and led by the energy ministry, to reduce overlapping and unnecessary visits and make things more straightforward for businesses, he said.

The two key issues will be forwarded to the top echelon of the government for review and approval, he added.

“The purpose of this meeting was to discuss and address the challenges raised by the private sector – to find a solution with the Ministry of Mines and Energy – in the field of mineral resources and energy that hamper the process of starting a new business, and especially those problems that have arisen in the context of Covid-19,” Heng said.

Ministry director-general for Mineral Resources Ung Dipola noted that his ministry does not have the right to exercise control over other government agencies’ inspections. He encouraged the private sector to write letters directly to the pertinent ministries and institutions.

He said that, as a rule, officials from his ministry conduct quarterly inspections of each mining site, although now they are carried out semi-annually or even annually due to Covid.

“These visits are to check compliance with the Law on Mineral Resource Management and Exploitation, and the collection of royalties for the national budget,” he said.

He added that technical officers from the ministry work according to the actual needs of the private sector, smoothing the application process for new licences or extensions and resolving the issues brought up by companies.

The Government-Private Sector Forum was established by the government as a mechanism for dialogue between the state and the private sector, and is held annually – Covid-19 resulting in an exception – with Prime Minister Hun Sen, all ministers and heads of state institutions, governors of Phnom Penh and all provinces, and representatives in all areas of the private sector.

The forum provides an opportunity for the private sector to raise challenges and request the government to review and take appropriate action. All decisions made by the forum are considered by the Council of Ministers, or Cabinet.