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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Australia funds Private Sector Forumby Richard Woodd

Australia funds Private Sector Forumby Richard Woodd

australia.jpg
australia.jpg

Cambodia's Private Sector Forum (PSF) is to receive two more years of donor funding,

even though it has been in virtual recess for 16 months.

The IFC's Jayed Hamid and Australian Ambassador Lisa Filipetto sign the agreement to continue funding the Private Sector Forum.

The Australian Ambassador, Lisa Filipetto, has signed an agreement with the International

Finance Corporation (private sector arm of the World Bank) to put A$610,000 into

continued support for the PSF, which is expected to resume meeting when a government

is formed.

The PSF was launched in 2002 with the intention to meet twice-yearly, but it was

suspended in January 2003 after the anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh, and has not met

since due to the continued absence of an elected government, although the forum's

working groups have remained active.

The PSF is described as "an honest broker" between the private sector,

the Cambodian Government, and the donor community. It is administered by Sok Chenda,

secretary general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia and co-ordinated

by the IFC.

Among its achievements are high-level consultations on investment and tax law, introduction

of private sector monitors within the Customs Department, and improved labor standards.

Javed Hamid, IFC's East Asia and Pacific Regional Director, told a signing ceremony

that although the private sector was the engine of economic growth "it won't

happen magically. The sector [in Cambodia] is small and fragile. As Cambodia enters

the World Trade Organisation, the Private Sector Forum process will move from infancy

to maturity.

"The PSF provides a vehicle for serious policy discussion. By bringing together

a range of businesses, it encourages promotion of common interest, rather than narrow

self-interest.

"We are finding that the government is becoming more responsive to concerns

raised by the business community. For example, the private sector was consulted in

drafting important laws, including the Law on Investment, the Law on Tax, amendments

to the Law on Breach of Trust, and the Law on Auditing and Accounting.

"The government has also agreed to private sector monitoring of Customs documentation.

Tolls on the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville route were lowered in response to concerns

expressed by the private sector. Most recently, the private sector was offered the

opportunity to contribute to strategic planning, the legal and regulatory environment,

and increased marketing and promotion activities, all related to the tourist industry."

In the future the PSF would support a broader base of the economy, moving beyond

the garment and tourism industries, to also tackling issues affecting small and medium

enterprises and the agri-business sector.

"Issues are likely to include access to finance, access to markets, information

technology, extension services and physical infrastructure. We hope this focus will

contribute to government action in these areas," Mr Hamid said.

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