Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Promoting industrial development

Promoting industrial development

Li Yong, director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, speaks to The Post last week.
Li Yong, director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, speaks to The Post last week. Kali Kotoski

Promoting industrial development

As Cambodia moves forward with its Industrial Development Policy (IDP), the government is seeking support from international organisations for smooth implementation. The Post’s Kali Kotoski sat down with Li Yong, director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), to discuss his findings and how the organisation can help promote government policy.

What did you hope to achieve during your visit and which stakeholders did you meet with?
Well, this is my first trip to Cambodia since I became director-general of UNIDO. So it was very important to listen to the leaders of this country on the prime minister level, ministry level and the private sector level as well as other developmental agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Their views and vision of Cambodia’s industrial development strategy and how effectively the government is implementing its own policy was very important for this mission. I also met with numerous ambassadors to get their input on Cambodia’s current development.

What did people in those meetings say?
What I heard from the various ministers is that they want help from UNIDO to implement its Industrial Development Policy (IDP) as it faces new challenges. The prime minister told me that UNIDO can help in the agricultural sector, but they want to focus on large-scale agribusiness, food processing and supply chain dynamics so that they can enter into global and regional markets.

What has been holding back SME development?
With FDI coming in and bringing technology and skilled labour, it creates a win-win situation for the country. And eventually this will provide local SME’s the space to move up. But most importantly the government must understand that it needs to change its mindset to capture global manufacturing. Of course SMEs will develop faster when industrial development moves forward.

What is UNIDO’s current level of commitment in Cambodia?
Our current cooperation is a five-year program that runs from 2016 to 2020. That cooperation covers SME development and sustainable industrial development. While we are implementing that, we still need to find financing for some of our programs. But currently we have five projects worth $12 million and another four projects in the pipeline that are geared towards the fisheries industry, trade facilitation and quality infrastructure. Before we would just do small projects here and there, but now we want larger involvement and a greater partnership. So, if we continue a country partnership it will be more comprehensive in order to bring in more FDI.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for stable job creation?
Agriculture if large-scale agribusiness takes off and they get it right. While agriculture has been struggling, I do believe the government and the donor community has been working hard to support the sector. But our understanding is that they need to create value chains to support the sector’s growth with local processing otherwise value is lost. For instance, Cambodia produces a lot of cassava but they do not process it here and that is a waste when it comes to creating value.

With Cambodia growing at 7 percent a year, is the government doing enough to make sure development is inclusive?
For UNIDO, we would primarily like to see job creation through industrial development. But of course the distribution of the wealth and a social welfare system is one of the issues we focus on. What we want to see is inclusive industrial development. All people in Cambodia should have the same opportunities for prosperity and hopefully government policy actually does that.

In your meetings with the private sector, were there any concerns raised about the current political environment?
We did not have any of those types of discussions with the people I met. But we did talk about how the government needs to speed up its approval of FDI projects because you can’t have investors waiting for one or two years. FDI moves quickly and will go to other countries if Cambodia’s process for approval is slow.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Kingdom, UN discuss rights

    A year after Cambodia received 198 recommendations from UN member countries, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-Cambodia) met with the Cambodia Human Rights Committee (CHRC) to discuss following-up on the Kingdom’s third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and