The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ), the Kingdom’s largest industrial park in terms of size and occupancy, now houses 175 tenants, which employ about 30,000 people, according to local reports. Notable nationalities of enterprise owners include China and the US, as well as those from Southeast Asia and Europe, industry insiders say.

By comparison, Chen Jiangang, head of the colossal 11.13sq km special economic zone’s (SEZ) developer and operator, Sihanoukville Special Economy Zone Co Ltd, had reported the number of tenants at 165 as of November 2020, while also estimating the worker total at around 30,000 even back then.

Generally seen as a type of commercial oasis, an SEZ is a specially-defined region within a jurisdiction’s borders that is subject to different – typically more liberal – legal, administrative and economic regulations than elsewhere in the same jurisdiction, and can include unique tax, logistical or one-stop service arrangements designed to attract business and investment.

The SSEZ is located in Pou Thoeung village, Bit Traing commune, Prey Nop district, Preah Sihanouk province. Established in 2008, the zone represents a partnership between Jiangsu Taihu Cambodia International Economic Cooperation Investment Co Ltd and the Cambodia International Investment Development Group Co Ltd (CIIDG).

Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association in Cambodia president Chea Chandara commented to The Post on May 14 that the SSEZ’s strategic geographical location near the Kingdom’s flagship deep-water port has been an attractive feature for investors.

The zone’s tenants manufacture items such as garments, travel goods, electrical and electronic components, furniture, solar equipment and car tyres, he said, adding that owners are mainly from China, Southeast Asia, Europe and the US.

“The reason why the SSEZ has so many enterprises operating within is its high-potential location near Sihanoukville’s international port, making it easy to hire workers and transport goods in and out,” Chandara said, positing that tenant numbers would climb even further with improvements in the global economy and consequential upturns in ongoing international crises.

Although most tenants are Chinese-owned businesses, the bulk of the manufactured goods are shipped to the US, Europe and Asia, he noted.

In a previous interview, Federation of Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia (FASMEC) president Te Taingpor remarked that the allure of the Kingdom to would be even more potent if electricity prices were brought down to or below the levels offered in nearby countries.

Lower electricity prices generally mean lowe r production costs for energy-intensive businesses, which would give them an edge to successfully compete on the international stage, he said.

“Prices for fuel and electricity are key aspects of the appeal to investors, as these are important inputs for manufacturing, along with raw materials and labour. When these rates are stable and low, investors will see opportunities,” Taingpor said.

Last month, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng lauded SSEZ for providing jobs and incomes for Cambodians, which he said have significantly improved livelihoods and stimulated the economy.

The minister was speaking at an April 26 working meeting with Chen, head of the industrial zone’s operator.