Monday, March 9, 2009

Comments at the Groundbreaking Ceremony to Build Special Economic Zone in Sihanoukville

23 February 08

My wife and I are so happy to participate with all of our people in Sihanoukville to build infrastructure for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which is a joint efforts by Cambodia and China. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for the Cambodia Development Council (CDC), especially the committee in charge of SEZ for their coordinating efforts with the local authority so that the starting point has come sooner than expected.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the partners from the People's Republic of China (PRC) who has just given out his report about how the partnership has been built between a consortium from China and the Kingdom of Cambodia represented by HE Lao Minh Khin and local partner companies.

SEZ that is taking shape today is the biggest in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Cambodia has got SEZ in many places, which normally cover areas of hundreds of hectares. This SEZ here is the biggest and could become a city of its own which is about more or less similar size of the current city judging by stages of constructions and developments. This has been a wonderful and special occasion because this is the fiftieth anniversary of relationship between the Kingdom of Cambodia and PRC. The construction signifies another symbol of good relations between Cambodia and China, especially the collaboration for socio-economic development in Cambodia.

In past recent years, the two countries' relations have taken a fast pace through the exchange of visits by senior officials - HM the King of Cambodia, and other leaders including the Prime Minister, visited the PRC and the reciprocal visits by HE former Party Head and President Jiang Zeminh, former Premier Ju Rongji, former President of the National People's Congress of China HE Li Peng, HE Premier Wen Jiabao, Deputy Premier Wu Yi, who have all been those that promoted initiatives and investment projects in Cambodia.

Many Chinese companies expressed their interest in putting investment in Cambodia. SEZ in Sihanoukville will take an initial investment of 320 million US dollars whereas the total investment capital will be 3 billion US dollars. The Chinese company is also building for Cambodia its power house which is otherwise difficult to seek for investment from other sources. China seems to be committed to investment in the development of Cambodia's infrastructure. It has taken up project to build hydropower in Komchai Mountain, Ta Tai river, Pursat, Kirisom, and special economic zones, etc.

What I can say is that China said the least but do the most. China already finished a road between Kratie and Steoung Treng and from there to the border with Laos along with a 1000-meters long bridge over the Mekong, which is one of the best roads in Cambodia. Soon China will help build the longest bridge and road in Cambodia. Talking within the framework of ASEAN China has offered what they called early harvest initiative for new members of ASEAN that includes a list if 400 items from Cambodia to China with 0% tax rate. Cambodia does not have goods to export to China yet. This is clear that SEZ, with more investment from China, will play an active role in increasing the number of goods from Cambodia to China.

Today we planned the construction which will be complete in the end of 2008 and it is today that six companies participated in the signing ceremony for building factories in the SEZ. According to estimates, at the end of the year there will be at least 30 factories while 800 workers are needed. In the second stage, which will be complete in 2011, there will be 150 companies and there will need about 40,000 workers and the last stage will be done in 2015 with 300 companies and over 80,000 workers are needed.

Cambodia is a small country with a population of 14 million. Why there is a need for such a big SEZ. We need to have a far sighted vision. If we talk about clothing, our annual production could give our people dresses for ten years but we do not produce for our dressings but for people in Europe, America, etc. Production in SEZ will be for export which will be tax free but if they export to our market they will be taxed. I have a strong belief that Cambodia's economy will jump up and China will have benefits from many investment projects.

According to advice from a Japanese expert who happened to note that in the People's Republic of China, SEZ were run under the late HE Deng Xiao Ping directly, so here SEZ will be placed under direct chairmanship of the Prime Minister. I noted that the sub-decree seems to have missed the Minister of Interior and the local authority.

On that occasion, Samdech Techo Hun Sen provides schools buildings to the Primary School of Bit Trang, the Junior College of Smach Deng, the Junior College of Boeng Taprom, the College of Sihanoukville, etc.


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