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Friday, February 02, 2007

How Cambodia Becomes Economic Power

By Shin Chul-ho

On the first day of this year, I flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia, as part of a six-day package tour of Angkor Wat. Now I know that Angkor Wat has antiquities amazing enough to attract tourists from all over the world. But I witnessed a poverty-stricken country.

Cambodia is still an agricultural society, experiencing what Alvin Toffler refers to as the ``First Wave.¡¯¡¯

French colonial rule for nearly a century and a 30-year civil war may have hindered Cambodia¡¯s economic development.

Under the rule of Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge cadres slaughtered about 2 million of the 8 million Cambodians in the 1970s. It was a critical loss of human resources. Among the slaughtered were high-ranking government officials, businessmen and military officers that could have led Cambodia to be a far better place to live in than it is now.

I contemplated how the country could overcome its socio-economic difficulties and provide a better life for its people.

What they should do, above all, is drive away corruption.

The moment I arrived at Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport, I noticed that the airport stank of corruption.

To get a visa, visitors stand in either a $20 line or a $25 line based on whether they came to Cambodia on a business trip or on a vacation trip. People in the $25 line got their visas much faster than those in the $20 line. According to the regulations, $25 dollars buys a single-entry visa for business, and $20 buys a single-entry visa for tourism. However, 99 percent of the people in the lines were tourists. What's wrong with this picture?

The guide said that donations of money to schools by foreign charity organizations are distributed among teachers. He also said donations of school supplies such as pencils, notebooks and erasers are also distributed among teachers, who then sell the supplies to their students.
He said corruption is prevalent in every sector. With such severe corruption, no country can make progress.

Korea, too, must pass through the corruption tunnel as soon as possible.

Cambodia should also diversify its agricultural production. The economy is too reliant on rice yields. Cambodian farmers could raise cattle and poultry as Australian farmers do, and they could grow different kinds of plants. For example, the Dutch grow tulips.

Cambodians are blessed with a rich environment, so they should make good use of it.
Look around the world. The rapid destruction of rainforests and the factories scattered all over the world are causing the global warming. Water, air and land are being polluted. China's rapid industrialization is contaminating not only its own rivers, air and land but also the Yellow Sea and the air of neighboring countries.

I think skipping becoming an industrial society and focusing instead on information industry intensification would best serve Cambodia. Industrialization will inevitably lead to the destruction of the environment, the jewel of Cambodia. But information technology, especially software technology, results in huge economic gains with little pollution and little capital. India is an example of this.

When they have succeeded in creating a high-quality software industry, what will happen to Cambodia? A variety of their agricultural products will be exported to other countries, its well-preserved environment will attract tourists who not only want to see Angkor Wat, Bayon, Taprohm, the Tonle Sap but want to see the unpolluted environment. And per capita income will increase dramatically.

The Cambodian government must also address education. I had an opportunity to visit an elementary school. A volunteer teacher from England was teaching English. The teacher allowed us to look around the classroom. The students had pencils and notebooks. There were no textbooks, no computers, no storybooks, no video screens, no other teaching materials whatsoever. Only chalk and a blackboard.

Our guide talked about the poor conditions in middle and high schools as well. One book is shared by two or three students, and the student sitting in front of the book has to turn his or her head to read it. That's why many high school graduates write in awkward postures.

Wiping out illiteracy is the top priority in education. But that's not enough with the global competition. Highly trained and talented people are needed to build up a strong economy. The Cambodian government should invest in education, even though people are starving.

When the infrastructure, from hotels to transportation, is improved, agricultural reforms are made and a software miracle takes place, Cambodia will be called the second Singapore. Read more!

Cpac may open factories in Vietnam and Cambodia


The Siam Cpac Block Co, the Siam Cement Group's building materials producer, is considering new factories in neighbouring countries, according to sales and marketing manager Pittaya Jantawichayasuit.

He said a feasibility study aimed to explore opportunities to develop concrete block factories to serve local markets and also supply SCG, Thailand's largest industrial conglomerate.
Models show off some of the more stylish applications of Cpac products at a company marketing event yesterday.

Potential markets are Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as the Middle East, with a likely this year, he said yesterday.

He said the capacity of a new factory must be at least 100,000 square metres, with a minimum investment of 200 million baht.

''Actually, we could go into the overseas market by exporting, but cement product margins are very narrow because they are bulky goods, which results in very high transport cost,'' he said.
Other Siam Cement affiliates have used a similar strategy, opening roof-tile and cement plants outside of Thailand in order to expand production overall and also serve those markets at a cost lower than that of exporting from Thailand.

''The countries where we have cement plants will be our priority in order to secure raw materials,'' Mr Pittaya said.

Siam Cpac Block is currently running at 75-80% of its annual capacity of 3.2 million square metres at its plant in Saraburi province.

For the domestic market, the company has set a 12% target for sales growth this year, well above the 4-5% estimate for the overall concrete-block market.

The company last year earned revenue of 870 million baht came from sales to the construction industry and directly to homeowners.

Mr Pittaya expects homeowners to account for more revenue this year, as construction-industry demand for concrete blocks for public projects becomes saturated in Bangkok. Potential remains in other centres such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Khon Kaen, however.

The company has set aside a 20-million-baht marketing budget to educate homeowners about concrete as an option for home decoration in a bid to widen its user base.

The budget will go mainly to building an image via exhibitions and marketing events, similar to the strategy adopted by its sister brand, Cotto, which has successfully positioned its ceramic tiles as fashion and lifestyle products. Read more!

President Triet to visit Laos, Cambodia in February

10:06' 02/02/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – State President Nguyen Minh Triet will make official visits to Laos and Cambodia in February, Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Le Dung announced at a press briefing in Hanoi on February 1.

The President will visit Laos from February 5-7 at the invitation of General Secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party Central Committee and Lao State President Choummaly Sayasone.

Dung said the visit aims to strengthen the close relationship and trust between the two countries as well as the friendship, special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the two parties and states. Measures to boost economic cooperation will be discussed during the visit.

President Triet will visit Cambodia from February 26-28 as guest of King Norodom Sihamoni to bolster the good neighbourly relations and comprehensive cooperation with Cambodia, strengthen trust and closeness between the two countries' leaders in general and with the Cambodian Royal Family in particular, and expand bilateral cooperation.

(Source: VNA Read more!