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Firms ready to expand despite local skills gap

Firms ready to expand despite local skills gap

A Eurocham business confidence survey has revealed that 81 per cent of respondents – members of the business association – planned to increase investments and expand their operations in the Kingdom, but viewed transparency and the lack of skilled human resources as the major downsides to doing business here.

The survey conducted by the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, with 72 respondents from its more than 200 members, shows that more than two-thirds of the respondents have seen little change in the ease of doing business in recent years, with 22 per cent saying it has only “worsened.”

Ratana Phurik-Callebaut, executive director of EuroCham, said that while this a concern for respondents, the government has worked on implementing reforms to make doing business easier, and formalising a “largely grey economy.”

“However, communication about these efforts and reforms could be improved, while there still is a general gap of perception,” she added.

Increasing Cambodia’s ranking on the World Bank’s annual Ease of Doing Business report has been a pet project for Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol, whose ministry has instituted online systems to register a business, as well as to apply for a certificate of origin.

While a large portion of EuroCham’s respondents cited low labour costs as the main competitive advantage of operating in the Kingdom, 53 per cent of firms said the lack of quality human resources was still an obstacle.

Phurik-Callebaut said that firms can find talented Cambodians to work with, however, the supply of such resources was not keeping pace with the increasing requirements of the private sector.

“It has become necessary to better train a bigger number of people, which implies that education and training institutions adapt their offerings to the needs of the private sector, but also that the private sector invests more in the development of human skills,” she added.

On a positive note, a large majority of respondents were upbeat about their prospects in the Kingdom, with 81 per cent saying they would increase their investment and operations here.

“Despite existing challenges, the matter of the fact is that Cambodia has been experiencing booming growth over the past decade,” Phurik-Callebaut said.

Of the respondents, most were local SMEs with foreign ownership, with the top three sector represented being transportation and logistics, pharmaceutical and tourism firms.

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