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Malaysia PM spurs investors

MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad headed a delegation of over 100

leading Malaysian businessmen to Cambodia on April 14-15 to encourage private

Malaysian investment in the growing Cambodian economy.

But Dr Mahathir

refused to be drawn on how much public sector aid money Malaysia was willing to

provide Cambodia.

"We are not doling out money... It's a small amount. We

have a fair idea of what we can afford," said the Prime Minister, declining to

name a precise aid figure.

In a speech to the Malaysian delegation,

Co-Primier Norodom Ranariddh promised his government was working hard to create

a business environment which would encourage the investment of foreign capital

in the restructuring of the Cambodian economy.

During a seminar to

explain the Cambodian business environment, the co-premier emphasized that

regulations on investment are being designed to be attractive to foreign

investors.

"Our main policy is to grant very competitive investment

incentives, to facilitate investors, and to protect foreign investments," the

First Prime Minister told the gathering.

The government hopes to

encourage the flow of foreign capital into Cambodia by ensuring that foreign

businesses encounter no discrimination, he continued.

In addition, the

Cambodian Development Council, consisting of the Cambodian Investment Board and

the Cambodian Reconstruction Board, had been established to facilitate and

coordinate foreign investment, he said.

"The CDC will serve as a one-stop

service organization for investors," the co-premier added.

"The main

purpose of the CDC is to review and approve investment projects, provide

information and guidance to investors, interface with various ministries to

obtain appropriate licenses."

Minister of Finance Sam Rainsy later told

the gathering that movement of foreign currencies in and out of Cambodia,

expedition of company formation to allow companies to be created within 30 days,

and a favorable rate of corporate tax in relation to other countries in the

region were inducements the Cambodian government hoped would help Cambodia

compete for investment money with other budding economies.

Cambodian

corporate tax will be charged at 20 percent, which compares favorably with tax

rates of 30 percent in Malaysia and 25 percent in Vietnam, the businessmen were

told.

"I don't think Malaysian businessmen have given Cambodia the right

amount of attention," Dr Mahathir informed journalists at a subsequent press

conference.

"I believe [Cambodia] now has in place the necessary legal

structure to enable investors to come here and help with development," he

continued.

The Malaysian Prime Minister cited tourism, hotel building,

infrastructure development, road construction, public power supply development

and telecommunications as areas in which Malaysians were interested in startup

ventures.

Malaysian investment in Cambodia is presently estimated at $50

million, with over 170 Malaysian business interests registered with the

embassy.

Current Malaysian business interests in Cambodia include

Cambrew, bottlers of Angkor beer and Pepsi, Tricelcam, and Cambodia Public

Bank.

"At the moment Malaysian businessmen see so many opportunities they

are a little confused. They are already looking at investment in China, Vietnam

and the central Asian republics. Because of that they have not had the time to

focus on Cambodia," the Malaysian Prime Minister said.

Dr Mahathir

emphasized Malaysia's commitment to training Cambodian technologists and

providing professional assistance, especially in agricultural sectors, rather

than donating aid money.

"We have promised help in areas where we have

the expertise. One of them is rubber. An interest has also been expressed in

opening palm oil estates."

"We will help to provide the necessary

planting materials. But this is a long process and we are not certain the

climate is good for oil palms."

"I think Cambodia sees Malaysia as a role

model," Dr Mahathir said, accenting Cambodia and Malaysia's historical

ties.

His prime ministerial visit, the first visit by a Malaysian prime

minister to Cambodia in 30 years, was a "renewal of the relationship which has

always existed between Malaysia and Cambodia," the Malaysian Prime Minister

stated.

"In the period when they were having trouble we were very

supportive of the people of Cambodia. I think they see us as one of the

countries who can be of help."

Dr Mahathir added that he was not unduly

concerned with the security risk of KR guerrillas.

"We have had

experience of this during the Communist insurgency. We felt quite secure. I

don't think the Khmer Rouge will be able to move around the country. I don't

think Malaysian businessmen should worry about that."

Dr Mahathir denied

reports that Malaysia had been asked to intervene with Thailand over the Thai

military's alleged support and assistance for the KR.

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