Cambodia’s new era of reforms

Promising steps have been taken to improve the business and investment environment in the Kingdom through a package of reforms. But Chheang Vannarith cautions against being complacent and urges the private sector and civil society to continuously deepen their engagement with the government to ensure that reforms deliver results.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has introduced a “sharp” new package of reform measures in his remarks, lasted for more than three hours, at the Government-Private Forum last Friday. It was perhaps the boldest statement on reforms by a Cambodian leader since 1993 with a clear, laudable vision and some concrete, practical measures.

This could be a new era of reforms and bold leadership seems to be taking form. The level of tolerance against institutional inefficiency and corruption is remarkably dropping with a clear warning to Cambodian politicians and bureaucrats that they must be prepared to perform professionally and productively.

The Forum is regarded as “an enlarged cabinet meeting”, which means that all the forum’s decisions have the same effect as cabinet decisions. This is a unique case in Asia in which the state gives significant power to the private sector in public institutional reforms. This is a positive beginning for promising robust governance reforms.

Under the mottos “reform internally and make friends externally based on a spirit of independence” and the five approaches of “looking into the mirror, taking a shower, scrubbing away the dirt, treating wounds and conducting surgery”, the government is determined to accelerate governance reforms to reduce production cost and enhance productivity and competitiveness, and foster economic diversification to ensure sustainable, inclusive and resilient long-term growth.

“Strengthening competitiveness and promoting economic diversification are not only key factors to ensure that Cambodia can achieve its long-term development vision but also an indispensable foundation for creating high-quality jobs, improving revenue and enhancing the livelihoods of people across the country,” stated Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Chheang Vannarith is president of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute (AVI).

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