The work on the master plan to develop Preah Sihanouk province into a multi-purpose model Special Economic Zone has reached the halfway mark and has now entered the stage of review and recommendations at the technical level, according to Long Dimanche, the Deputy Governor of the province.
“Safe to say the master plan is over 50 percent with three more major phases to go until the official approval,” a Facebook post by Dimanche noted after a review meeting.
The Royal Government of Cambodia through the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) officially started the consultancy contract with China’s Urban Planning and Design Institute of Shenzhen (UPDIS) to develop the master plan on October 18, 2021. The government expected the process to take around 18 months to complete.
The master plan, one of the key priorities of Cambodia’s Industrial Development Policy (IDP) 2015-2025, is expected to be a dynamic long-term planning document that provides a conceptual layout to guide future growth and development for the province as one of the key economic poles.
The multi-purpose SEZ carries an explicit goal of turning Sihanoukville into a ‘second Shenzhen city’. Shenzhen is the most successful example of a Chinese SEZ, as it helped the transformation of a small fishing hamlet to become a manufacturing powerhouse and a high-tech innovator.
With the implementation of the master plan, the city’s population is also expected to go up to one million from the current 300,000 as the multi-purpose SEZ aims to become a major economic zone in Southeast Asia that is empowered by smart technology, as well as an advanced industrial zone serving regional and global production chains.
According to experts, the development of the SEZ is poised to play a key role in Cambodia’s recovery from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic as well. Currently, the province completed the construction of 34 new roads and is now expanding its port and airport.
The $2 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, key for the province’s connectivity, became operational last October.
The decision to upgrade Preah Sihanouk into a multi-purpose SEZ comes alongside other efforts to further develop the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.
Constructed with a loan of more than $200 million from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the deep-sea port is expected to be completed in 2025.
Once completed, the new container port will be 350 meters long and 14.5 meters deep, which will be able to dock large ships with 5,000 TEU container capacities. It will allow ships with a capacity of more than 4,000 containers. In addition to building physical infrastructure, officials are also studying ways to make the port more efficient and business-friendly.
Meanwhile, the provincial administration has also started taking action to address the issue of unfinished buildings in Sihanoukville. So far, 359 such buildings have been identified by the administration, which is working on a package of incentives for developers and investors to complete the buildings.
Most of these buildings were abandoned by Chinese investors in 2019 following the ban on online gambling and the shutdown in the wake of Covid-19.
The Royal Government and the provincial administration expect that some of the Chinese investors would now come back, especially after China recently reopened its borders.
According to Vichet Lor, Vice President of the Cambodia Chinese Commerce Association (CCCA), the Chinese investors will now come back to Sihanoukville as the infrastructure steadily improved with the new Expressway connecting Phnom Penh with the city and the completion of new roads in the province.
Source: Khmer Times