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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia holds first SME forum

Cambodia holds first SME forum

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Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem (centre) addresses Thursday's SME forum.

Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy seeks to increase cooperation with small and medium enterprises to help strengthen and diversify the Kingdom’s still-stunted light industry sector

CAMBODIA held its first forum Thursday aimed at improving the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Minister Suy Sem, who heads the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, told attendees that the aim was to promote dialogue and improve effectiveness.

"This is in order to encourage discussion about policymaking and the government's strategy at the national level to strengthen and develop industry and [SMEs]," Suy Sem said.

The purpose of the forum was to review the government's newly announced 2009-13 strategic framework to diversify production of goods and incorporate improved technology. More than 100 attendees from the private sector, government and development partners took part.

"In my opinion this is the most significant time for Cambodia to re-evaluate its action plan for developing industry and [SMEs], to strengthen them and make them more effective," said Suy Sem.

The ministry's director general, Meng Saktheara, who also heads its SME sub-committee, told attendees that 90 percent of industrial activity is undertaken by SMEs, which contribute greatly to economic growth. And he said SMEs employ 40-50 percent of the labour force.

He said the global economic crisis had spurred the ministry to help SMEs produce higher-quality goods that can compete with foreign products.

"[The ministry] is trying to help SMEs that are able to produce products that comply with international standards," said Meng Saktheara. "We are also urging them to manufacture high-quality products that are priced to compete with foreign products."

SMEs are also being encouraged to use modern technology rather than traditional methods and to introduce more-creative packaging.

Meng Saktheara told attendees that 80 percent of SMEs make food and beverages for local markets and for the tourism market, which fluctuates and is affected by external factors.

"We need to produce high-quality goods other than food and beverages, and supply those locally and for export," he said. "But this framework cannot solely be carried out by the ministry. We need to cooperate and work with the relevant ministries, development partners and SMEs ... to ensure success."

Meng Saktheara said SMEs can act as a bridge for poverty reduction and rural development.
Mao Thora, a secretary of state of the Ministry of Commerce, said his ministry has worked to cut red tape to lower the costs for SMEs.

"[The Commerce Ministry] has made it easier for local entrepreneurs by cutting expenses incurred when setting up a business, lowering the time required and removing certain requirements," he said.

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