Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government has designated four provinces – Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin – as Cambodia’s fourth economic pole, in response to the growth of the agricultural sector and fish population.

Hun Sen revealed this while visiting the site of the Stung Pursat I hydroelectric dam project in Pursat province on March 14, when he also met the residents who would be relocated by its construction.

“The fourth economic pole is an initiative between Chinese president Xi Jinping and I. The project focuses on the Fish and Rice Corridor because the four provinces have an abundance of rice and fish,” he said.

He added that the provinces should also look to diversify so they can meet demand for other products.

“Economic poles” referred to geographical areas of concentrated economic activity.

Five areas that have been formally defined or proposed as “economic poles” are Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk and Siem Reap provinces, and the northeastern and northwestern regions.

Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou said it is suitable for Battambang to be designated as part of the fourth economic pole and the Fish and Rice Corridor, because of the province’s enormous agricultural potential.

“At present, we are not living up to that potential because of a lack of processing facilities. We need investment in processing agricultural products such as maize and mangos for domestic supply and exports. In the future, Battambang will be linked to larger domestic markets and international checkpoints by more transport infrastructure,” he added.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath said that in reality, the economic poles of the four provinces have been apparent for some time, but it was an excellent indicator that they had been formally designated.

“The prime minister is obviously paying attention to the future growth of the region’s economy,” he added.

“Obviously, we are aware of the agricultural potential of Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin provinces, especially in rice, fisheries and other commercial crops. The government is clearly preparing them for economic specialisation,” he added.

However, he said the designation of the four as an ‘economic pole’ will not automatically improve the agricultural sector.

“The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries needs to examine and implement various programmes across the country for them to grow faster,” he added.

He also suggested that the government consider paying closer attention to animal husbandry, as the Kingdom imports 30 to 40 tonnes of meat products a day from Vietnam and Thailand.

“Producing these items within Cambodia will reduce imports, grow the national economy, and improve public health,” he said.

On March 10, agriculture minister Dith Tina led a meeting to discuss the northwestern ‘economic pole’. The meeting was held to collect crucial input to make a new economic hub, which will help facilitate the import and export of agricultural products between Cambodia and China.