Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have a great honor and pleasure to joint you all again, on this day of 1st May 2004, in celebrating International Labor Day,here in the Sihanoukville Autonomy Port. To take this opportunity, with profound respect and admiration I would like to extend my best wishes to all Cambodian workers, including the civil servants and employees of both state-owned and private enterprises, especially to those workers serving in the garment factories, and to other employees across the country. I wish you all happiness and success!
May 1st became a historical day for the world to remember those achievements of workers, in recognition of labor value and respect for equality of work without discrimination, whether it be a labor intensive or not. The spirit of struggle and determination of workers has transformed into an ultimate objective and strike to improve their labor conditions. At present, this generally becomes international laws, standards and norms that have been recognized and aimed to comply by every institution, organizations, offices, and factories, big and small enterprises all over the world.
In fact, the commemoration of International Labor Day today here in this place presents a significant meaning for the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and for me especially. It is also a good opportunity for me to joint you all and provide all the 1,072 civil servants, workers and employees of the Sihanoukville Autonomy Port with my encouragement for your hard work. This port is one of the public enterprises that have achieved notable results in fulfilling its duties and responsibility.
The International Sihanoukville Autonomy Port is an economic gateway which is strategic and highly potential supporting the international economic activities of Cambodia. It has helped promoting economic growth in the past, at present and will do so in the future. In this sense, on behalf of the RGC and myself personally, may I express appreciation and sincere thanks to the management of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, particularly to all managers, civil servants, workers and employees of Sihanoukville Autonomy Port who have made tremendous efforts to promote business activities of the port.
All these have indeed contributed to the realization of economic growth of the country. Moreover, in order to reward these great efforts, they have received appropriate pays, as well as support in any or other form ensuring sustained labor conditions and improvement in general welfare and living standard of the workers. This is a key strategy of the RGC that conforms to the objective and agreements underpinned by the International Labor Day.
In the framework of economic development particularly in the past five years, the RGC has successfully achieved macroeconomic sustainability despite natural disasters and domestic as well as external shocks. All these have allowed Cambodia to be able to successfully pass the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility review by the IMF in June 2003. In addition, Cambodia has been admitted into WTO in September 2003. This clearly shows that Cambodia has been moving on right direction toward economic modernization, trade and investment liberalization integrating the country into regional and global economies and markets.
Moreover, the trade agreement between Cambodia and the United States, which has come into force since 1999, has linked conditions of garment quotas to the improvement in labor conditions and Cambodian workers’ rights, thereby labor conditions and the respect of workers’ rights have been steady enhanced.
The garment sector provides employment of about 220,000 workers in which most of them are poor women from rural areas. In October 2003, the ILO released its eighth stock-taking report on labor conditions in the garment sector of Cambodia. The report shows that in 2003 there was progress in reinforcement of the law on salary and working hours, enhanced freedom of associations, progress in relations between workers and managers. Some labor union leaders were fired because of some minor misjudgments. And there were less number of illegal demonstrations. The Labor Arbitration Council was successfully established for the first time, which aimed at settling conflicts in the industry. As a result, progress in the respect of labor rights has not only enhanced labor situation, but also made the United States’ Administration to increase quotas by 14% for Cambodia’s garment export in 2004.
Indeed, these achievements reflect the efforts of the Royal Government in promoting awareness of Labor Law. This law has been informed to employers and employees, aimed at promoting the implementation of this law. Moreover, the Labor Arbitration Council was established and a labor court is expected to establish in 2004. At the same time, the ILO has provided support for inspection of working conditions in private enterprises, aimed at enhancing working conditions and promoting discussions or tri-partite negotiations among employers, employees, and government representatives in settling disputes which might emerge among staff; between workers with employers or enterprise owners.
The Royal Government is aware that job creation for our people is important that needs to be focused with greatest attention. Specifically, there are approximately 100,000 young female workers entering the labor market each year, 80% of which are employed in the garment sector. Thus, to increase job opportunity for people, especially for young female workers, the Royal Government has been trying to attract more garment factories from Thailand as part of the relocation scheme within the GMS, combined with the development of its human resource capacity to have better professional skills and confidence in taking all these opportunities.
Moreover, the Royal Government has focused on attracting foreign direct investments for other sectors, such as agriculture and tourism which are crucial for generating employment and economic growth in the future, especially after the phasing out of quotas for garment exports.
Cambodia’s accession into the WTO in September 2003 presents another good move in attracting FDIs. The Royal Government will use this membership to implement its reform agenda to be advanced further through such efforts as modernization of legal systems, building of institutional capacity, structural adjustments and the implementation of trade and investment liberalization, which are the important foundations for sustainable development and integration of Cambodia into regional and world economies. Thus, it is crucial to ensure high interests of all Cambodian people especially in building of institutional capacity and human resource development, as well as the entrepreneurial skills in taking the opportunities and in creating their own jobs.
As H.E. Director General of Sihanoukville Port reported, though there has been a political deadlock in the establishment of a new government since the election in July 2003, Sihanoukville Port has remained active in its development and operations. The construction of space for handling containers with the loan from Japan Bank for International Cooperation is completed 80% and expected to be fully completed by the end of 2004. This goes hand-in-hand with the government’s efforts to rehabilitate and develop transport infrastructure to link different parts of the country and add more new links to the entire traffic, especially linking the road network of Southeastern and Northeastern remote regions to this sea port. This is to promote faster integration of Cambodia into the region and the world, thus will help reducing the poverty among our Cambodian people.
The use of private funds for maintenance and repairs of National Road No. 4 and the rehabilitation of National Road No. 3 from Veal Righ to Trapaing Rapov, which is expected to be completed this June, are urgent and important for timely, effective and efficient transport from different parts of the country into the sea port. Moreover, the improvement of this road link to Trapaing Rapove of Kompot provincial town has started its implementation gradually with the concessional loan from the Republic of Korea, while the construction of four bridges crossing rivers along the coastline and the rehabilitation of Road 48, linking Koh Kong to NR 4 will be started soon.
In addition, the Royal Government fully supports the initiative of further development of Sihanoukville, including the expansion of ports for handling container cargo with 180 meters additional length and for general cargo with 265 meters length, equipped with Gantry Cranes and administrative computerized “one stop service” building which will serve as a center for all relevant authorities to perform their duties in facilitating port handling, reducing the paper works and saving time and unnecessary costs to our customers. Thus, I wish to appeal to the Japanese Government to finalize its decision on the second trench loan from JBIC as soon as possible so that we can use it on time.
Taking this opportunity of joyful gathering, may I extend my deep gratitude to the Japanese Government, through JICA, for its support of the feasibility study on development project of Phnom Penh –Sihanoukville corridor to promote the establishment of special industrial zones which was completed in June 2003. I would like also to appreciate the effort made by the CDC and concerned ministries/institutions and authorities for their good cooperation in making this work possible and on time, and that a project proposal to be executed on a 50 hectare area adjacent to the port has been made.
Indeed, this project is important for Cambodian economy as it will also expand the activities of Sihanoukville and would serve as a center for FDI attraction. This will provide comfort and fast and effective handling of international cargo that would also generate many jobs for our young people as well as for the general Cambodian workers, and attract more and more national and international investors.
In the spirit of our pride on the outcome that we jointly achieved and the spirit of optimism on the bright future of Cambodia, I would like to appeal to the management, officials, workers and all employees at the Sihanoukville Port to continue your utmost efforts to show your will, ability and effectiveness of your work, in order to show to national and international community that our Port is a real international trade-oriented one.
I would like also to provide some advices to all authorities and units concerned to continue to enhance close cooperation and coordination with each other on transparent and effective manner, so that we can improve the service management system in all sections in this Port. The improvement would be vital for confidence enhancement of consumers and investors at national and international level, and for promoting trust from donors on our commitment in the building and development of Cambodia.
At the same time, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, once again may I express my deep gratitude to the government and people of Japan, and the governments and people of other friendly countries, and all donors, who always provide all kinds of support mentally, physically as well as financially in the cause of rehabilitation and economic development of Cambodia, especially through renovation and construction of transport infrastructure, where this sector is the key to promote economic growth and reduce poverty in Cambodia. Taking this opportunity, I would like to congratulate the PENTA OCEAN and ITALIAN THAI IV companies which are responsible for the implementation of project on capacity expansion for containers, and the PCI Company, which is responsible for the technical control advisor. They have together been actively working towards the full completion by the end of year 2004, as planned.
I would like to announce the spirit of the Labor Day of May 1st as the day of Solidarity, Unity, Equality, and Development for the bright future of all Cambodian people and our next generation. Finally, may I wish you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the five germs of Buddhist Blessing.