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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sihanoukville zone prospers on China links

SSEZ General Manager Cao Jianjiang photographed at the industrial park’s main office earlier this month near Sihanoukville.
SSEZ General Manager Cao Jianjiang photographed at the industrial park’s main office earlier this month near Sihanoukville. Sahiba Chawdhary

Sihanoukville zone prospers on China links

Established in 2008, the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ) is Cambodia’s largest special economic zone in terms of size and occupancy, covering 1,113 hectares with over 100 tenants and a 16,000-strong workforce. Developed and co-operated by Jiangsu Taihu Cambodia International Economic Cooperation Investment Co Ltd and the Cambodia International Investment Development Group Co Ltd (CIIDG), the industrial park is a pillar of state-backed Sino-Cambodian cooperation.

The Post’s Cam McGrath sat down with Cao Jianjiang, general manager of SSEZ, to discuss the economic zone’s development.

What infrastructure and facilities have been developed in SSEZ?
SSEZ has an overall area of 11.13 square kilometres. Roads, electricity, water, communications and sewage lines have been established within a 5-square-kilometre area.

We have built a sewage treatment plant with a daily processing capacity of 5,000 tonnes, offices, residential area, restaurants, cultural, entertainment and other services in an integrated service centre. There are also accommodations for employees, markets and lifestyle amenities. At the same time, we have a one-stop government administrative centre that helps the establishment of the labour market.

How many tenants have signed leases for SSEZ, and how many factories are in operation?
Currently, there are 109 enterprises in the zone. Some 92 companies have started operation, and there are some companies that are still at the beginning stage. Five companies are building manufacturing plants and expected to start production by the end of the year.

What are the main nationalities and sectors of your tenants?
There are 94 Chinese companies, 12 companies from United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, South Korea and other countries, as well as three local companies from Cambodia.

SSEZ General Manager Cao Jianjiang photographed at the industrial park’s main office earlier this month near Sihanoukville.
SSEZ General Manager Cao Jianjiang photographed at the industrial park’s main office earlier this month near Sihanoukville. Sahiba Chawdhary

How many people work in the zone?
Currently, there are about 16,000 workers in the special economic zone.

Has a vocational training facility been established in the zone?
We have a training centre that has trained about 10,000 people, providing skills and language courses.

SSEZ was established before the official launch of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. How has this initiative benefitted SSEZ and what role will the industrial park play in growing international Chinese trade?
The One Belt, One Road initiative has brought about many development opportunities for companies, allowing SSEZ to develop rapidly. At the same time, China and Cambodia have further deepened their cooperation in economic, cultural, educational and infrastructure areas, which created a favourable environment for the economic zone.

The development of SSEZ has created a platform for cooperation between China and Cambodia. China has entered the maturity stage of industrialisation, with a large number of competitive industries and strong production capabilities, while Cambodia as a developing economy has been actively promoting industrialisation as seen in its “Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025”. This initiative shows a strong demand from Cambodia for foreign investment and capital, infrastructure and technology.

SSEZ has encouraged Chinese companies to expand locally and effectively addressed the needs of Cambodia’s economic growth. This has created a mutually beneficial relationship for both countries under the One Belt, One Road initiative.

What are SSEZ’s revenue sources, and do companies prefer to rent factories or lease land in the zone?
SSEZ’s main source of income comes from land, factory rentals and property management. Companies usually lease industrial plots, with contracts of between 30 years to 50 years. In the beginning we had 20 or 30 tenants that leased factories because they didn’t want to take so much risk, but later they leased land and built their own.

What are your growth targets?
SSEZ’s goal is to have 300 companies in the economic zone, and provide employment and comfortable living accommodation to 80,000 to 100,000 industrial workers. We believe that the development of the SSEZ will speed up, and we strive to become the “Shenzhen” of Cambodia.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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