Indonesian President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo has expressed his desire for Indonesia to play a role in the development of Cambodia’s infrastructure, as part of its commitment to strengthening bilateral ties and cooperation between the two countries.

Cambodian commentators see this as a positive development within the framework of regional cooperation, noting that the Kingdom is need of improved infrastructure development.

Jokowi made his interest known during a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen following the conclusion of the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Indonesia’s harbour town of Labuan Bajo, according to Indonesian news agency Antara, which cited Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi.

“Indonesia’s commitment to improving economic cooperation was demonstrated by its interest in participating in the development of Cambodia, especially through infrastructure projects,” said Marsudi.

The bloc’s summit was held on May 10-11 this year under the theme “ASEAN Importance: Epicentrum of Growth”.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), took a positive view of Indonesia’s intention to contribute to the Kingdom’s physical infrastructure.

He noted that in the past, the development of this sector has always relied on investment from large economies such as South Korea, China or Japan, and rarely from within the ASEAN framework.

“In ASEAN, we overlook investment opportunities in regional trade and focus on those outside the region. As a member of the G-20, Indonesia has huge economic potential,” he said.

He added that Cambodian-Indonesian bilateral ties have developed positively in recent times, with the two countries having a longstanding tradition of good relations.

For Hong Vanak, director of the RAC’s international economics department, investment is a global issue to which both developing and developed countries must pay close attention. He also noted that Indonesia – the world’s 10th largest economy according to the World Bank – has always wanted to expand its investment potential abroad.

“Building infrastructure is a must for a developing country like Cambodia. If Indonesia injects investment into the infrastructure sector, it will seize some projects that are currently run by the World Bank, ADB [Asian Development Bank], or AIIB [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank] and thus benefit from these projects. In the past, Indonesia has ignored these opportunities,” he said.

He added that in order for Indonesia to expand its influence as a regional power, it needs to invest in the region’s developing countries, such as Cambodia and Laos, as China has done.