With the “Sihanoukville Multipurpose Special Economic Zone Masterplan”, the coastal city is to act as a “tugboat” for the Kingdom, driving the Cambodian economy – which has been stalled by the Covid-19 crisis – forward across many sectors, said Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor Long Dimanche.
He said the ongoing development and modernisation of the coastal city would be brought to the attention of the world with Sihanoukville being the host of a slew of major regional and international events.
“Hosting events such as the East Asia Seas Congress 2021 – as well the Southeast Asian Sailing Championship from December 12-17 and the ASEAN Tourism Forum from January 16-22 – represents ideal opportunities to showcase Sihanoukville to the region and beyond,” Dimanche said.
The master plan by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, together with Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction with the participation of Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall, is designed to ensure the development of the province is sustainable economically, environmentally and socially for the benefit of the province, the Kingdom and the Cambodian people, he said.
“This master plan for the special multipurpose economic zone will push Sihanoukville in a new direction, one with sustainable development at its heart. The city needs the strategy to strengthen our capacity, so the participation of all stakeholders, including the people, is crucial.
“Moreover, the government of Cambodia is also encouraging the private sector to strengthen their abilities in order to actively participate in the tourism services sector and to host remarkable events.
“It will see Sihanoukville drive the whole Cambodian economy. Of all the provinces in Cambodia, Preah Sihanouk has the most potential and the capacity to propel Cambodia forward into a new era, so the policy will see the city act as a tugboat pulling the Kingdom’s economy – which has been struck by the pandemic – into a new era,” Dimanche said.
Furthering the city’s already impressive development, the master plan aims to advance Sihanoukville as a gateway city and transform it into a national economic centre and sustainable smart city.
“We already have plans in place to turn the city into a financial hub for the country. Recent events have shown that we have to diversify Sihanoukville’s economic strategy and create a new environment.
“We are looking to broaden and attract new streams of foreign direct investment, and are looking to diversify the nationalities of investors, making Sihanoukville a truly international city.
“To facilitate foreign investors during and after the pandemic, the government has made a few amendments to the investment laws. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has made some capacity-building programmes to ready our local human resources for the new industrial policy since a portion of the Cambodian industry is still labour-intensive. So it makes total sense that the government is turning towards high value-added industries utilising hi-tech.
“The government is preparing policy to transform the city into a multipurpose economic zone. The Sihanoukville Multipurpose Special Economic Zone Masterplan will see the city divided into a series of zones, with places for tourism, for industry, for finance and for agri-industry, among others,” he said.
To meet an increasing demand for infrastructure, the government in November 2019 earmarked more than $300 million to revamp 34 roads, with Sihanoukville Autonmous Port expanding to handle larger Post-Panamax-class ships, with a new terminal planned, while the international airport is also constructing a new terminal.
And Sihanoukville is also developing its technological infrastructure, transforming into a smart city.
“People have the perception that a ‘smart city’ is a place full of robots and driverless taxis, and something cannot yet be done in Cambodia, but this is not the case.
“A smart city uses technology to collect data and to optimise the efficiency of operations and services, something that is already happening in Sihanoukville.
Dimanche says all the development is set to drive Sihanoukville – which since its establishment in 1957 has grown to become a leading national centre of tourism, trade, commerce and transport – forward and be ready for the opportunities of the future.
“Ever the since the city’s first major development along with the construction of the deep sea port in the 1950s, Sihanoukville has been a major driver of the Cambodian economy, allowing unrestricted direct international sea trade and acting as the Kingdom’s gateway.
“And with the latest developments and the Sihanoukville Multipurpose Special Economic Zone Masterplan, it will continue to do so in the 21st century,” Dimanche said.