Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for investors and businesspeople in Europe to seek out business and investment opportunities in untapped sectors in Cambodia as he declared the private sector an “engine of growth”.

Speaking at the Cambodia Night Event organised by local conglomerate WorldBridge Group, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the premier touted the Kingdom’s success in managing the Covid-19 pandemic in order to facilitate business and tourism activities, having been among the first countries in Asia to relax testing and other requirements for vaccinated travellers.

He also cited the “quick and timely procurement” of vaccines for Cambodians and the country’s successful vaccination campaign, noting that over 93 per cent of the total population has received at least a first dose. “This has allowed Cambodia to achieve full herd immunity, and thus reopen the country and all socio-economic activities since November 14,” he said.

The prime minister said that, to promote a resilient and sustainable recovery and economic growth, the government has put forth the “The Strategic Framework and Programmes for Economic Recovery in the Context of Living with Covid-19 in a New Normal 2021-2023”, a comprehensive roadmap to safely guide the economy as the novel coronavirus becomes endemic.

“Our philosophy is to transform the challenges posed by this crisis into opportunities for internal reform, together with an increase in physical and digital infrastructure investments, and promotion of socio-economic resiliency,” Hun Sen said.

“Cambodia has overcome the Covid-19 crisis with confidence … [through] competitive, sustainable and inclusive development. I would like to invite and welcome all investors to explore, travel to, and seize investment opportunities in Cambodia,” he added.

WorldBridge Group chairman Sear Rithy said that the Cambodian government has made a number of reforms to ease the conduct of business and investment activity in the country. He singled out for praise the new annual Government-Private Sector Forum, where the private sector can raise directly to the prime minister issues pertaining to key national policies.

Hun Sen said that Cambodia “made great strides to open up its economy and engaged with new markets” by signing free trade agreements (FTA) with China and South Korea. He noted that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade pact that entered into force on January 1, is also expected to boost the economic outlook of the Kingdom.

“With all these possibilities, Cambodia is one of the most vibrant and open free-market economies in the region,” he declared. “The country is stable, pro-business and welcomes investors from around the world.”

He added that the new Law on Investment will provide “incredible” opportunities to new investors, including tax holidays of three-to-nine years and duty-free imports on equipment and production inputs.

The prime minister said that the government, as part of its long-term vision, has also been proactively promoting a better business and investment climate by improving the quality, times and costs of logistics, including shipping and transportation; increasing the efficiency of public services; providing skill development opportunities, and modernising the social security system.

At the 11th Joint Committee Meeting on March 10-11, Cambodia and the EU renewed their pledge to enhance bilateral trade and investment ties in spite of the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on both entities.

The renewal comes despite fallout and protest from the Cambodian government regarding the August 2020 partial withdrawal of the EU from the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme – a suspension that affects one-fifth or €1 billion ($1.07 billion) of the Kingdom’s annual exports to the 27-nation bloc.