Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 7 affirmed his position on establishing Cambodia’s fourth “economic pole” in the northeastern region, with a focus on agro-industry and mineral resources to spur national economic growth.

Hun Sen made the remarks during the inauguration of an upgraded 93.56km section of National Road 7 from the Kratie provincial capital to the province’s northernmost district of Sambor.

Although, the prime minister did not specifically list the localities considered for the composition of the fourth “economic pole”, the northeastern region typically refers to the quartet of Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces.

“I intend to bring about a fourth economic pole in Cambodia now that the first three have taken shape. The first economic pole is Phnom Penh, the second is Preah Sihanouk province, the third is Siem Reap province and the fourth will be northeastern Cambodia,” he said.

The premier had most likely entertained the notion for some time prior to the announcement, given that he had set out a number of plans to connect the region through the improvement of physical infrastructure linkages.

In support of the decision, he highlighted that the Kingdom has produced 1,751kg of dore bars – containing about 90 per cent gold – in the past seven months, exclusively in the northeastern province of Mondulkiri, with a current weekly processing capacity of 80-100kg.

“We’re nowhere near being finished, we’ve just started producing gold seven months ago,” Hun Sen enthused.

He also pointed out that there are other deposits of gold, bauxite and coal in Cambodia, but noted that more research is needed to gain a deeper perspective on the extent of mineral resources in the Kingdom.

Additionally, some of the northeastern provinces have great cultivation potential for a variety of crops of export, the prime minister said.

However, as a result of a glaring dearth of agri-processing plants in the region, a considerable share of natural rubber latex, cashew nuts, peppercorn and other cash crops are exported in raw form, he lamented.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath told The Post on February 7 that the capital is designated as a “multi-purpose economic pole” that caters to various fields of business and commerce.

Siem Reap province as an “economic pole” is linked to cultural tourism, and Preah Sihanouk province to finance and tourism, he said, underlining that the fourth locality would also be developed with a focus on tourism.

He opined that mining development in the area should be limited for the time being, suggesting that non-mineral natural resources be explored and developed to their fullest potential.

The economist said the government creates these “poles” to develop relatively affluent regions that accentuate Cambodia’s economic growth and help drive down production costs of goods below those of regional peers.

To illustrate this point, he threw in a local adage: “As we say in agro-industry, by planting in other provinces, we incur higher costs.”

Sereyvath said the four “economic poles”, coupled with their ancient temples, pristine beaches and other promising natural resources, will offer lucrative conditions for investment and trade, and underpin economic growth in Cambodia.