The government on March 26 approved five new investment projects worth about $1.3 billion and expected to absorb 2,250 workers, even amid a dramatic escalation in the ASEAN member’s fight against the spread of the Covid-19 disease.

The projects include Huadian Sihanoukville Power Generation Co Ltd’s $1,283 million 700MW coal-fired power plant and Fang Hua Polyurethane Material (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s $1 million factory, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

The ventures will be located in Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone and are expected to provide 520 and 420 jobs, respectively.

Additionally, Island Laboratoire Co Ltd’s $6.3 million pharmaceutical factory in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district will create 260 jobs, Herba (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s $3.6 million agricultural processing and packaging factory in Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone will bring 120 new jobs and YT Plastic Co Ltd’s $5.8 million electrical-equipment, light-bulb and lamp-components plant in Shandong Sunshell (Svay Rieng) Special Economic Zone in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town will deliver 930 jobs.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on March 28 that most of these investment projects are Chinese-owned, suggesting that the developments come as windfall from the Cambodia-China Bilateral Free Trade Agreement signed in 2020.

This and similar pacts with other trade partners will entice international players to invest in Cambodia, or set up factories in the Kingdom, he said.

“Without all the agreements, Cambodia would definitely have trouble wooing international investors to invest,” Vanak said.

The government is working to revise procedures to enable cooperation with many countries to expand, he said. More investment will further cut down on outbound labour migration.

CDC approved 238 investment projects worth a total of $8.2 billion last year, down 12 per cent from 2019, according to a CDC press statement.

Speaking at a workshop on “Sustainable Investment Opportunities in Cambodia” hosted by the UK-ASEAN Business Council via video link last month, CDC secretary-general Sok Chenda Sophea noted this decline was small compared to the global trend and partially buoyed by a raft of measures launched by the government during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This decline is still at an optimal level compared to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD] forecast for foreign direct investment flows in the world, that they’d be reduced by about 42 per cent in 2020,” he said.