Published: Thursday, 28 February, 2008, 08:13 AM Doha Time
PHNOM PENH: China overtook South Korea as Cambodia's largest foreign investor last year, but Japan had shown an increased interest in investment as opposed to aid, a senior Cambodian economist said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, the secretary-general for the government's Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), Sok Chenda, gently chided Western nations for lagging behind Asian nations in foreign direct investment.
He said between 1994 to 2003 investment from Western nations made up just 15% of the countryâ€™s total, with 60% coming from Asian nations such as Malaysia, China and Korea.
â€œI canâ€™t predict foreign investment figures for 2008 but I hope for even more. Prime Minister Hun Sen just returned from a visit to South Korea yesterday and we are hopeful that will generate renewed investment interest there,â€ Chenda said.
â€œThere is also new interest from other quarters, and especially Japan. Japanese investors have certainly now entered the doors of our home.â€
Approved foreign investments from 1994 to 2007 totalled $14.83bn, he said, with China accounting for $1.76bn of that total and South Korea $1.5bn.
Industrial investments made up 34% of that total, followed by the service industry with 32%.
Agriculture made up just 7%, but Chenda said that was a promising area of growth and with a boom in global bio-fuel demand and the recently launch of several food processing factories in Cambodia it was expected to continue to grow.
However, he admitted the less developed nation still faced obstacles, such as Cambodiaâ€™s terrible balance of trade and lack of secondary industries, which meant container ships arrived full but often left with room to spare.
He also appealed to foreign governments to help Cambodia strengthen its ability to curb money laundering, pointing out that the country lacked an investment board to investigate potential investors thoroughly, such as the boards set up in Thailand and Japan.
â€œCompeting regionally remains less than easy. Trading partners use the words â€کfriendlyâ€™ and â€کco-operationâ€™, but of course they always look after their own interests,â€ he said. â€“ DPA