Foreign direct investment (FDI) to Cambodia over a 20-year period – from 1994 to 2014 – is estimated to have reached $19.2 billion and was heavily weighed by inflows of capital from China, according to the first-ever comprehensive survey on FDI, released yesterday.
The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) and National Institute of Statistics (NIS) jointly conducted the survey in an effort to provide a definitive data set on FDI that reflects the actual investment situation in the country.
Chea Serey, director-general of NBC, said without this data, policymakers and researchers rely largely on figures given by investors of committed investment when they seek approvals for their projects at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) – and most of these figures do not reflect the actual amount they end up investing. While previous figures showed Cambodia was receiving a large inflow of FDI, there was suspicion as to whether the numbers reflected real investment.
“Earlier, what we have seen was only the recorded number [of FDI], which is not consistent to the actual amount of investment we got,” she said. “So, we decided to do the survey in order to find the data to compare it to the actual situation.”
According to the survey, the accumulated amount of foreign direct investment from 1994 to 2014 was estimated at $19.2 billion, in which Asian countries accounted for nearly 90 per cent. China, included together with Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, contributed 44 per cent of the total.
Much of this investment was in the manufacturing and real estate sectors, which received $4.6 billion and $2.9 billion in FDI over the last two decades, respectively.
This FDI survey was conducted over the period of September 2015 to January 2016 with a sample of 124 companies, factories and enterprises.
Hang Lina, director-general of NIS, said the team faced a number of challenges while conducting the survey, which led to its delay.
“Some enterprise owners were unwilling to cooperate by sharing information,” she said. “We are sorry for that, and this made us take a longer time to complete the survey.”
Chan Sophal, director at Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), said the survey’s estimate of $20 billion in FDI over the last two decades was something to be happy about.
“This figure shows that Cambodia received a high volume of FDI, which is the main source to develop our country’s economy,” he said. “I think it is even higher than the amount received by other developing countries like ours.”
While Chinese FDI formed a large portion of capital inflow, Kung Phoak, co-founder and president of the Cambodian Institution for Strategic Studies (CISS), said that all investment, regardless of origin, will help the country’s economy.
He said that as more investment flows into Cambodia the country will be able transform its industry away from labour-intensive industries toward those manufacturing higher-value-added products.
“As a first step, we attract investors from China or Asia that focus on labour-intensive industries,” he said. “In the future, once our economy status is more mature, I believe that we will be able to attract industry that produces higher-value-added products for European or American investors.”