The government should speed up amendments to its investment laws ahead of two major business conferences set for next year when visiting foreign investors will get first-hand knowledge of the economy, the head of a local business association said yesterday.
Speaking at the announcement for next year’s Cambodia International Business Summit, scheduled for February 15, Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the International Business Chamber of Cambodia (IBC), said the Law on Investment (LoI) and Law on Special Economic Zones (SEZ law) will be high on the agenda.
“The new law on investment [LoI] will definitely be something that is talked about during the business summit and I will present on both the good and bad parts of the current law,” he said.
Sciaroni said the LoI is long overdue for an update and the private sector has been calling for its amendment for years. When the legislation was last amended in 2003 the government relied heavily on contributions and consultations with the private sector.
“I hope we have a similar process like we did then,” he said.
“We want more private and public sector discussions.”
However, Sciaroni said he suspected that the amendments would only be formulated once the articles for a proposed law on Special Economic Zones were finalised into a sub-decree.
He said if both laws could be ready ahead of February’s Cambodia International Business Summit and the World Economic Forum in May, it would clarify investment issues to hundreds of potential investors visiting the Kingdom.
Stephen Higgins, managing partner of investment firm Mekong Strategic Partners, said regardless of changes in the LoI or the drafting of a SEZ law, Cambodia already has one of the most liberal economies in the region, especially as it allows foreign entities to wholly own companies.
“It’s already more liberal than most countries,” he said.
“What would add more value would be to simplify the way existing laws are implemented.”
However, Mey Kalyan, senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council, said the changes in the law could not come soon enough as foreign direct investment (FDI) has been a vital source the industrialisation of the economy and crucial for any diversification away from the traditional sectors of garments and agriculture products.
“The benefits to update and upgrade the investment laws to reflect the current situation are huge,” he said, adding that the new measures would smooth investment decisions.
“Otherwise, [investors] may just take wait and see attitude, or worse they turn away from Cambodia altogether,” he said. “The timing is critical for Cambodia’s economy to sail ahead.”