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Chamber says more can be done

Nguon Meng Tech, director general of Cambodia’s Chamber of Commerce
Nguon Meng Tech, director general of Cambodia’s Chamber of Commerce, talks to the Post from his office in Phnom Penh. Chan Muy Hong

Chamber says more can be done

In recent weeks, the government has announced several reforms aimed at stamping out corruption, improving the private sector and boosting exports. Nguon Meng Tech, the director general of Cambodia’s Chamber of Commerce, says the policies include cutting red tape for businesses and enforcing collection laws within the customs and tax department. However, in this week’s interview with the Post’s Chan Muy Hong, Tech says that much more needs be done to keep foreign investment flowing.

How is the private sector doing as a whole?
Overall, we have seen growth in all industries. Lately, we’ve seen rice exports double. The one-window service and the removal [of the arduous task of obtaining] a certificate of origin have helped the export process. We have noticed that the government now is focusing on boosting exports of agricultural products, such as dried-cassava, corn, seeds and especially rubber. We are currently working with the government on drafting policy concerning the production and processing of rubber, as well as dev-eloping plans for exports.

Can you talk about some challenges that businesses continue to face?
The challenge for most is the time that it takes to process necessary documents. Most of the companies are still not sure what the process requires and how to get approval for certain export documents. We have sent a request to the customs and tax department for an agent who will be there to answer and give information regarding papers, so the local exporter can work faster to deliver goods. We have
received positive answers from them already. I hope from now on the challenge will be minimised.

What sectors are attracting foreign investment now?
We have seen investment in rice increase remarkably. Investors are focusing on the agricultural sector, especially China. Just last week, [Tycoon] Mong Reththy signed a $200 million joint-venture deal with a Chinese company to expand Reththy’s pig business. Investors are seeing a great deal of demand in the local market. For example, the cement that is locally produced can supply only 25 per cent of the [Cambodian]market.

Have strikes and post-election protests affected investment?
Government policy on foreign investment remains the same, which obviously does not impact investment in Cambodia. My concern is that the on-going protests and strikes are giving Cambodia a bad image. Who will want to invest their money when things can go wrong at any time? If protests and strikes keep going on like this, investors will become fed up with the chaos. I urge protesters to reconsider their actions and weigh the good and the bad, for the country, the economy and for themselves.

What plans does the Chamber of Commerce have for next year?
We are organising a forum between the private sector and the government in March next year. Nine working groups across sectors will raise their concerns and we’ll see what will come out of it. We will go onto the discussion about remaining problems for exporters, the cost of transportation and the logistics process. We hope next year it will be overcome. Regarding this month’s deadline for the customs and tax department to clean up its act, I think we will have to wait and see.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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