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PM slams SEZ delays

PM slams SEZ delays

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090501_13.jpg

Prime minister says he’s angered that the first stage of Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone is yet to be completed

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Sovann Philong

Prime Minister Hun Sen says the Cambodian government is already paying interest on a Japanese loan for the SEZ.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen lashed out at planners of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Thursday for delays that are holding back construction and costing the government in interest payments.

The government took out a US$3 million loan in 2006 from the Japanese government, which was earmarked to be used for design work on the SEZ, but no progress has been made.

The next instalment is $30 million for construction of the 70-hectare site.

"I have told the [Japanese government] to begin building the SEZ. We already signed an agreement in 2006, but we are still waiting," Hun Sen said.

He added that the delays are also deterring Japanese companies from investing in the SEZ.

He pointed to two privately funded SEZs in the province  - one in Steung Hav and one is in Prey Nob - saying they had already been completed.

"We should not be happy only accepting this loan. It has to be repaid, and we have nothing to show for it," he said.

He said that on March 31, 2008, the government agreed to a $31 million soft loan at 0.01 percent interest from Japan for construction of the SEZ, adding that the money has not yet been received because plans for the SEZ have not been finalised.

"I urge the JICA president to let us know whether the SEZ will go ahead because we are already paying interest on the loans," he said.

"If Japanese investors don't come, the SEZ will be used as a football stadium," he quipped.

He added that the SEZ should complement the port.  

Lou Kim Chhun, director general of the Sihanouk Port Authority's special economic zone, said the SEZ will play an important role in allowing companies to export manufactured goods.

He said the project is behind schedule because the bidding process takes time, adding that two Japanese companies have been shortlisted for construction: Daiho and Panta Ocean.

"Development of the SEZ will cost about $33 million to build infrastructure, water and power. We expect it will create 30,000 jobs," he said,

"Now, we are negotiating the price to start building, and we expect construction  will start in July 2009 and finish in 2011."

The SEZ will be located next to the port, which would make customs and transportation easier, he said.

"It will help the port. We expect assembly plants for vehicles, electronic goods and light manufacturing plants for goods like umbrellas, shoes and clothing." 

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