With Cambodia facing the dual crisis of Covid-19 and the partial loss of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme in Europe, the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training on Wednesday stressed the need to improve the business environment and keep the Kingdom on track for rapid economic growth.

Speaking at an annual meeting to review last year’s work and set goals for 2020, Minister Ith Sam Heng urged officials to make every effort to guarantee the stability of the business sector.

“We must improve the environment for businesses to operate while protecting the interests of our workers,” Sam Heng said.

Although the government is implementing reforms to ensure the country continues growing at an average rate of seven per cent, Cambodia faces challenges that may slow down its economic expansion, Sam Heng said.

Trade conflicts between major economies, geopolitical disputes, civil unrest in some countries, climate change, natural disasters, the Covid-19 outbreak, and partial withdrawal of the EBA will all negatively affect the economy, he said.

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) deputy secretary-general Kaing Monika told The Post on Wednesday that the ministry and GMAC have discussed ways of minimising the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the partial loss of the EBA deal.

Minister Ith Sam Heng was speaking at an annual meeting of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to review last year’s work and set new goals for 2020. Heng Chivoan

“These remarks by the minister are simply to remind officials of the importance of doing whatever they can to protect the private sector and interests of our workers.

“For example, if factories are forced to temporarily suspend operations due to a lack of raw materials coming from China, workers should be protected. Managers and unions should arrange some kind of legal protection,” he said.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said while Covid-19 will impact the economy in the short-term, the EBA issue will have longer-lasting consequences.

He said the partial withdrawal of the EBA will become effective in August, around the same time that minimum wage negotiations get underway.

“The minister is urging his subordinates to find ways of minimising the effects on the garment sector partially losing the EBA,” he said.