First of all, I am asking for your understanding concerning the changing of schedule. I planned to read this speech in the morning. However, since we had this protocol to accompany their Majesties to have a medical checkup in the People’s Republic of China, I then proposed two options – 1) I would send someone on my behalf and 2) we change our conference opening from morning to afternoon. It did indeed cause some difficulties to some of you. However, absence of the Prime Minister at the time when Their Majesties leave the country would not be a good protocol. I am asking for understanding from the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) as well as the conference participants. I also notice here Ms Eva Mysliwiec who mothered CDRI in our difficult time at Tuol Kork with HE Chea Chanto, then Minister of Planning. CDRI has now reached its twenty some years or in other word a fully grown young man. I also noted the presence of HE Fumiaki Takahashi, former Ambassador (of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia). It is good to meet everyone.
I would affirm that a comprehensive economic partnership signed in Phnom Penh at the time that Cambodia was holding its rotating chair of ASEAN involves the ten ASEAN member countries plus China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. We also have one other economic partnership – Trans-Pacific Partner, which we hope that the United States will review roles of other countries in the region. There seems to be a differentiation. No matter what, if there is going to be competition, let them have a win-win competition, and not lose or win competition leading to lose-lose economic situation in the region and the world.
Cambodia’s Sustainable Income
Please allow me to say a few words concerning the figure that is said to be provisional. In 2013, our income was only 15.05% while (in 2014), though we have yet to finalize figures, our income has reached 16.35% of our GDP. According to my plan for incomes gathering to achieve 15.18% in 2014, we had already achieved 16.35% instead. In 2015, our income gathering strategy has been planned for 15.59%, while we now have surpassed the stated goal. We have planned for an increase of 0.5% of the growth per annum. We must make stringent effort to ensure sustainable income.
Though we have come this far from 2004 to the present, we must make further efforts as Cambodia is still a low-income country in the region. A Minister of Finance of a country that I do not name it here says while his country secured over 12% of GDP, in 2014, he was setting for only 0.2% increase and asked me why Cambodia dares make it 0.5%. I told him our reasons and difficulties. Well it is quite normal for us to share and exchange.
Increased Tax, Non-Fiscal Income Less Than 90%
Income from custom in 2014 increased to 117% of plan while tax income was 106%. However, non-fiscal income had not reached 90%. This has pulled figures in the previous two down, making a tally of income only 100.2%. If only we achieved 95% in non-fiscal income, we may have bigger figure as incomes from custom and tax had stood at 117% and 106% respectively. There is this room for improvement.
Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank, Silk Road Infrastructure Fund
I hope that the World Bank will not have hard feeling with BRICS. Many countries hail its establishment. I believe that there are those who dislike BRICS. I also know there are those who dislike the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), of which Cambodia is one of its founding members. It is not a competitor to Asian Development Bank. I wish to see that the Asian Development Bank does not see AIIB as its enemy but one with complementary role. I think it is the best choice for the world and region, especially those developing countries that are in need of capitals. I have the same feeling for the Chinese Silk Road Infrastructure Fund (SRIF). We may note that there are numerous projects in the region but there has no fund to get them going.
We have had so many meetings, for example to discuss about connectivity illustrated in the ASEAN highway all the way to Turkey. Where will the money come from? The Chinese President Xi Jinping invited non-member countries of APEC for a meeting in Beijing, where Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, etc. chose to be present. The Chinese President then proclaimed a fund of 40 billion USD for SRIF. I had made it clear in my intervention that we have more projects than the capital we can call for.
In fact, in a meeting of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, I also appealed to the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to increase the fund for SRIF as there would be projects that are overlapping with those of ASEAN, the Greater Mekong Sub-region, ACMECS, etc. I wish that the Word Bank would not be envious with the new setup as it may lose some of its roles. I am sure there would be this feeling. Take for instance, the 240 billion USD Chiang Mai Initiative has caused displeasure to some countries already as they could not be a gendarmerie alone anymore.
As BRICS and AIIB take shape, some have encountered loss of some roles. I hope they do not think about losing some of their previous roles so as to allow others to take part in development for the region and the world. That is what my hope is. Previously, they may cut aid to any particular country or do whatever they wanted as they wish. Now those countries are equipped with choices. The world must now think of trimming down punishments or conditions and resorting to working faithfully with one another, competing in a win-win, not win-lose or lose-lose status. The world requires people to be transparent and speaking out. I am doing it. Though I know there are those who dare and dare not bring it out.
Frankly speaking, when they mistreated us, we also did not know which road to take. We had had to take adventure. How could a person sit still to die? When we had to go for other sources, you have no rights to censure us. Sometimes I said it is way too difficult to be a friend to them. While they ignore us they also detest us for establishing contacts with so and so countries. Well, maybe it is worth saying it out loud as we have all the foreign friends here. Cambodian Prime Minister said it. I am not sure if leaders of some countries would dare say it out like Hun Sen did.
Policy to Develop Industry
I wish to inform you that the Cabinet will meet tomorrow to adopt the policy to develop industry in Cambodia. I am calling the Cabinet members to get ready for a lively and fundamental discussion on the policy. The country cannot depend on agriculture alone. Advanced countries have their low shares (to GDP) from agriculture but stronger performance of industry and service sectors. Now that industry in Cambodia is still small compared to agriculture, efforts must be made to change that./.