The French government has pledged 100 to 120 million euros (roughly $123-147 million) in concessional loans to Cambodia annually from 2021 onwards. The loan pledge was made at the fourth Cambodia-France Policy Consultation meeting held virtually and chaired by Permanent Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economy and Finance Vongsey Vissoth.
Members of the French contingent at the meeting included Eva Nguyen Binh, ambassador of the French Republic to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Remi Genevey of the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) and AFD’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia Yazid Bensaid.
The event brought together 90 participants from the French and Cambodian sides in Phnom-Penh, Paris and Bangkok, including technical ministries and public enterprises that are partners of AFD. The purpose of the meeting was to review AFD’s activities in the country and to define the main orientations of French/Cambodian cooperation in the field of development for the coming years.
Vissoth described the meeting as an important event strengthening more cooperation and partnership between the two nations. He added that France is not just a friend, but also has been one of the leading countries in contributing to and bringing peace to Cambodia as well as a key development partner for Cambodia in different fields since the 1998 Paris Peace Accords.
The French contingent appreciated and thanked the Ministry of Economy and Finance for playing an important role in the current situation and emphasised that France would continue to support cooperation with Cambodia in all fields. They also thanked partner ministries and institutions for their good cooperation in the past.
From 2018 to 2021, France, through AFD, has provided Cambodia with more than 240 million euros (roughly $293 million) for clean water, education and capacity building projects, rural infrastructure rehabilitation, agricultural development projects, climate change mitigation and tourism for post-COVID-19.
The ambassador noted that with more than 880 million euros (roughly $1.07 billion) committed since the opening of the AFD and 77.6 million euros (about $95 million) in 2020, this cooperation is an essential contribution to the operationalisation of the development ambitions of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has committed to devote 0.55 percent of France’s gross national income to official development assistance by 2022.
The discussions resulted in an agreement on a list of joint projects for the period 2021-2022. AFD’s activities in the coming years will focus on agriculture, natural resource management (including water), energy and vocational training, in line with the needs and priorities of Cambodia and French development policy. A volume target has also been set at around 100 million euros (around $122 million) of commitments per year.
Ophelie Bourhis, AFD’s country director in Cambodia, was delighted with these prospects, saying, “These discussions enable us to lay the foundations for our 2022-2026 country strategy in response to the needs expressed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. We are fully committed to supporting Cambodia in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, as well as its post-Covid-19 action priorities.”
Vissoth noted during the meeting that the Covid-19 crisis that struck globally across economic and social processes, including public health, the disruption of production lines, job loss and an global economic downturn saw Cambodia’s gross domestic product drop by about 3 percent in 2020 with exports falling by 1.1 percent and the Kingdom’s budget deficit reaching 9.25 percent.
He added: “Our economy will recover in 2021, but this recovery is still highly uncertain if the Covid-19 outbreak on February 20 [continues to have] a high and deep impact.”
Cambodia has set out a post-Covid-19 economic recovery strategy for 2021-2023 as the basis for future planning and policy cooperation. Its goal is to increase the kingdom’s strength and resilience as a foundation for the nation’s economic growth and competitiveness.
An emphasis is being placed on the promotion of the development of science and technology to accelerate economic growth and expand the growth base and increasing entrepreneurship and innovation in both the public and private sectors through the increased use of digital technology in the production network and the promotion of e-commerce for small and medium enterprises. These components are seen as fundamental to the efficient and sustainable use of limited resources.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.