With the realisation of the ASEAN Economic Community due at the end of the year, politicians and business delegates, at a conference to discuss Cambodia’s AEC progress, have stressed the need for a more coordinated approach during the transition into deeper regional integration.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who gave the keynote address at the Cambodia Outlook Conference 2015 yesterday in Phnom Penh, said the country had made good progress on AEC-related reforms, ranking third among member-states in terms of preparedness, but reiterated that “collaboration and cooperation” were still needed.
“Our ambitious reform agenda will not be achieved without the improvement of collaboration and cooperation between concerned ministries and institutions,” said Hun Sen.
Speaking on the sidelines of yesterday’s conference, David Van, Cambodia’s managing director for business advisory firm Bower Group Asia, said that each ministry was working on the integration but the efforts were “fragmented” and the use of a single entity, much like a single window system, could help iron out these issues.
Van was part of the Ministry of Commerce’s team that went to the provinces to create awareness and educate provincial businesses.
“My suggestion is that if the Ministry of Commerce takes the lead, maybe they should be inviting other technical officials from other ministries, like culture, industry and handicraft, to tag along and have a cohesive educational process,” he said.
However, Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol said that as the ASEAN economic minister he disseminates all the information from meetings among the various governmental departments. Each ministry, like transportation and finance, have their own ASEAN-level talks, so everyone is involved in the AEC integration, he said.
“Nothing can derail the AEC implementation at all. The question is can we implement all of the blueprint?” he asked. “But the leaders are fully committed for this to be done by the year end,” Chanthol said, adding that a lack of coordination is not an issue.
Son Chhay, senior lawmaker at the opposition CNRP and deputy chair of the Commission on Economics, Finance, Banking and Audit at the National Assembly, said that there needs to be a greater flow of information and that leaving all the integration measures to the Council for Development of Cambodia could lead to failure.
He said CDC secretary general Sok Chenda Sophea, who spoke at the same conference, addressed problems faced by the SEZs, like electricity, but could not solve them all himself.
“How can he [Sok Chenda] be able to fix this problem? If he and other ministries, like industry and energy, meet regularly then they can solve it,” Chhay said.