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Cambodia Sets Course for Eco-Friendly and High-Tech Special Economic Zones

by Surya Narayan
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Prime Minister Hun Manet recently announced the Cambodian government’s ambitious initiative to create a novel breed of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) focused on green industries and advanced technology. These future SEZs aim to attract investments that align with sustainable and digital advancements, setting them apart from traditional industrial parks.

During the ‘Special Programme to Promote Investment in Preah Sihanouk Province,’ the Prime Minister elaborated on the vision for these SEZs, emphasizing their adaptability to cater to specific industrial sectors. This innovative approach underscores Cambodia’s commitment to fostering a more sustainable and technologically advanced economic landscape.

In a strategic shift, the new SEZ model will prioritize investments from homogenous national backgrounds, differing from current SEZs that host a diverse international investor base. This initiative is not intended to replace existing zones but to complement them, enriching Cambodia’s economic ecosystem without sparking competition.

Since 2006, Cambodia has seen the establishment of 24 SEZs, attracting capital investments totaling $8.1 billion, as reported by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC). These zones have been instrumental in diversifying the Cambodian economy, with a focus on sectors such as garments, footwear, auto parts, electronics, and assembly operations.

The Cambodian Chamber of Commerce has expressed strong support for this new SEZ model, recognizing its potential to generate employment, enhance exports, and contribute significantly to the nation’s economic progress. The emphasis on green technology and digital investments is anticipated to shift the labor market from labor-intensive to skill-intensive, fostering a more skilled workforce.

In line with this vision, the Cambodian government has prioritized vocational training for approximately 1.5 million young individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, equipping them with skills in various crafts and trades. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to attract high-tech investment by developing a more skilled labor force.

Cambodia’s proactive approach has already yielded positive results, with a 17% increase in fixed-asset investments during the January-November period of the current year, reaching $4.6 billion. The country continues to attract significant foreign investment, primarily from China, Malaysia, the British Virgin Islands, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The shift towards non-garment manufacturing, leveraging skilled labor and technology, has been highlighted by Hem Vandy, Minister of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation. While the garment sector remains substantial, there has been notable growth in non-garment manufacturing, as evidenced by the surge in exports of electrical machinery and equipment.

With over 2,000 industrial factories registered, employing more than one million locals, Cambodia is on a path toward a more diversified and technologically advanced economic future, underscored by the commitment to sustainable and high-tech SEZs.

Source: Khmer Times

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