Prime Minister Hun Sen urged all countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) to push for the development of digital infrastructure in order to make the economies of the region more competitive globally.
The GMS consists of China – where the river’s waters originate – and the other countries which the Mekong flows through: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Hun Sen made the remarks as he chaired the seventh GMS conference on September 9, which was held virtually due to the pandemic. He said digital connectivity is at the core of cooperative efforts within the GMS.
He said digital infrastructure can ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the socio-economy in the post-Covid-19 recovery context.
“Cambodia urges GMS members to focus on digital infrastructure development, economic integration and improving workforce skills in line with Industry 4.0 demands to keep the region competitive,” he said, referring to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Hun Sen also pushed for forward progress on the development of smart cities, the adoption of clean energy and greener logistics, the mobilisation of resources and finance, and increased partnership between the public and private sectors as a key mechanism to ease ongoing financial hardships.
“I believe that our common efforts [for economic growth] must be undertaken in a timely manner and done responsibly in order to ensure a smooth trade supply chain, increased investment, renewed tourism and good public health in the region,” he said.
Hun Sen also praised China for supplying Covid-19 vaccines to countries in the region. He also thanked other countries and the international community for providing vaccines to Cambodia, such as those donated through the Gavi, WHO and CEPI co-led Covax Facility or directly via bilateral agreements.
“We have to [increase] the promotion of solidarity and mutual tolerance within a multilateral framework to ensure that we “build back better” our societies and economies post-pandemic,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Hun Sen said humanity is now feeling the painful consequences caused by climate change all over the globe through the predicted increase in severity of natural disasters, which has proven without question that what the world is facing is truly an emergency.
He also warned that GMS member states must guard against threats to global economic growth such as the emergence of unilaterally restrictive or protectionist trade policies.
“Now, more than ever, we must realise the crucial importance of cooperation and collaborative actions. The threats and challenges that we face have impacts that straddle and spill over our borders and therefore require joint solutions,” he said.
The GMS issued a jointed declaration on September 9 saying they were committed to maximum regional cooperation, noting that since 1992 the GMS have mobilised financial loans totalling $27.7 billion to support 109 investment projects and 230 technical assistance programmes across the region.
The GMS have also contributed to regional connectivity by constructing 12,000km of roads and nearly 700km of railways. It has contributed to the electricity supply with around 150,000 families given access to the grid via installation of power plants producing 3,000MW over 2,600km of power lines, according to the declaration.