Cambodia Chamber of Commerce outraged as operators of the Kingdom's Special Economic Zones strive for more independence, leverage with govt
A labourer at work at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone earlier this year.
Operators of Cambodia's Special Economic Zones (SEZs) joined Tuesday to form the Kingdom's first SEZ Association, giving them more power to deal directly with the government and potential investors, the group's new president said.
"I think SEZ development in Cambodia will go very smoothly," said Nang Sothy, who was chosen to lead the association after a meeting with the International Financial Corp.
The IFC, which is a wing of the World Bank group, has pressed for the association to be formed, industry sources say.
Nang Sothy said the association, which includes representatives from all of Cambodia's 19 SEZs, will work with the government on drafting new legislation to govern SEZ operations, as well as lead promotional trips abroad.
The move, however, has outraged the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), which had previously managed the potentially lucrative SEZs, most of which have been inactive under the chamber's stewardship.
The government has been granting SEZs in the hopes that they would attract more foreign investors to Cambodia and drive the Kingdom's economic growth.
But only two of Cambodia's 19 registered SEZs show signs of life, and local sources say most have been plagued by a lack of transparency in their operations.
"I don't understand why they can't use the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce to help them. We are here to help them if they have any problems," said CCC Director General Nguon Meng Tech, accusing the IFC of interfering.
"I don't see any specific reason for having a new association for SEZs," he added. "[Prime Minister Hun Sen] authorised the CCC to deal with private companies and help them with any problems," he added.
An IFC spokesperson said the organisation's role was limited to arranging Tuesday's meeting at the request of the industry.
But industry sources say the IFC has also offered to help fund the SEZ Association's administrative operations.
I dont understand why they can’t use the CAMBODIA chamber of commerce.
"If IFC wanted to support something, why didn't the IFC directly support the CCC?" Nguon Meng Tech said.
Wing Hour, managing director of City Power Group Corp, which is developing the Kampot SEZ, said, however, that the association would allow the SEZs to work in chorus with one another and pool their various resources without being controlled by an outside group.
"We decided this morning to create an association because sometimes SEZs have been working alone and it has not been easy dealing with the government," he told the Post.
"Now we will be able to discuss any problems we have with the government," he added.
Mong Reththy, the president of Mong Reththy Group which operates its own SEZ, urged the association to treat all zone developers fairly.
All members should be able to share in the benefits of association membership, he said, warning against favouritism.