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The government controlled all official foreign trade. In July 1979, the Ministry of Local and Foreign Trade set up the Kampuchean Export and Import Corporation (KAMPEXIM, the state trading agency) to handle exports, imports, and foreign aid. In addition, the National Trade Commission was created to be in charge of both internal and external economic coordination. In March 1980, the Foreign Trade Bank was formed to deal with international payments, to expand trade, to provide international loans, and to control foreign exchange. There were reports of special clearing arrangements for trade among the Indochinese countries and with some members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, CEMA, or Comecon--see Glossary).
Cambodia's major trading partners in the 1980s were Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and the countries of Eastern Europe, particularly the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Cambodia also claimed to have trade relations with Japan, one of several countries that had recognized Sihanouk's Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) and had imposed a trade embargo on the Phnom Penh government of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).
In February 1979, Cambodia signed a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with Vietnam that formally strengthened "solidarity and cooperation" between the two countries. As part of the Vietnamese aid program to Cambodia, a joint scheme of pairing Cambodian provinces with Vietnamese "sister provinces" was inaugurated in the same year for the purposes of economic cooperation and of technical, educational and cultural exchange. Cambodia's Rotanokiri Province, however, was linked with two neighboring Vietnamese provinces--Nghia Binh and Gia Lai-Cong Tum. In addition, the municipality of Phnom Penh was paired with two Vietnamese cities--Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Except for the municipalities of Hanoi and Haiphong, all of the Vietnamese participants in the scheme were located in former South Vietnam near their Cambodian counterparts.
In early 1986, the major industrial plants in Phnom Penh included the Tuol Kok textile factory, the largest of six textile factories in the city (the factory was idle three days a week, however, because of power shortages). There were also four power plants, a soft drink plant, a tobacco factory, a ferro-concrete factory, and some other enterprises that produced consumer goods.
In the municipality of Kampong Saom and in neighboring Kampot Province, rice mills, lumber mills, small brick and tile factories, power plants, an oil refinery, a tractor-assembly plant, cement and phosphate factories, and a refrigeration plant for storing fish were reported to be in operation.
Employment in Cambodia is characterized by a large proportion of the labor force that works in informal economic activities (either self-employed or working for non-registered enterprises). Formal sector employment – despite strong growth – remains small: paid employees account for only 25 percent of the workforce, while the remainder are split roughly equally between self-employment and unpaid family labor. There has not yet been an official consensus on how many workers are engaged in informal economic activities, but the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) estimated 95 percent were employed by the informal sector in 2000-2001, while the Economic Institute of Cambodia (EIC) estimated 85 percent (ILO, 2006).
Cambodia’s real estate sector enjoyed unprecedented growth from 2006 to mid-2008. During this period the sector created new-found wealth for hundreds and construction jobs for thousands. But in a market fuelled by speculators, prices became overinflated; people became intoxicated on property and are now suffering headaches.
Speculators who a year ago were buying up real estate in the hope of selling it on to developers for a profit, have been left high and dry as prices have fallen.
Property values have fallen by 25-30 per cent in Cambodia and investment in the sector has virtually ground to a halt. Construction investment has fallen 40 per cent; some major projects have been put on hold or cancelled, and the fortunes of many high-flyers have been lost, along with numerous property-related jobs.
As with most of the world, over the last 3 years Cambodia experienced a rapid rise in property prices. Primarily in the Capital city of Phnom Penh, but also in major tourist destinations such as Siem Reap and the southern coast, property prices rose as much as 10-fold in some areas. An influx of Korean investment in residential developments seemed to trigger a speculative property market frenzy with at one point property prices rising on a monthly basis. With loans being offered by local banks at around 10 per cent and property value increases being many times that, a sudden increase in property transactions ensued. At its peak prices for prime land in Phnom Penh reached $5,000 a square metre. Siem Reap saw increases in values peaking around $1,000 a square metre. Beach front land in Sihanoukville experienced similar rises.
The government is seeking investors for its proposed national electricity grid and is hoping to have the main backbone of the system in place by 2015.
The proposed national grid ? part of the 2013-18 Cambodia Power Development System plan ? will be controlled by the state-run Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), but Special Purpose Transmission Licences will be available to private companies to operate sections of the grid to supply individual consumers as well as rural areas off the main grid.
Phnom Penh, which accounts for 85 per cent of Cambodia’s electricity consumption, will be at the heart of the proposed grid. Substations will be built in the capital, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampot and Sihanoukville by 2011. The grid will be connected to western Cambodia by 2012 to supply electricity to Siem Reap, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has been actively seeking to promote and facilitate the development of the country's petroleum resources with the objective of enhancing economic growth and providing opportunities for employment and participation in petroleum operations for Cambodian nationals and companies. The development and production of petroleum resources could be expected to generate significant revenue for Cambodia and allow the country to continue to develop its infrastructure to form the basis of future economic growth.
In recent years, significant exploration activity has been undertaken in Cambodia's petroleum sector, with the most substantial operations being undertaken by ChevronTexaco in Block A, offshore Cambodia. However, currently Cambodia has no oil and gas production or any oil and gas project that is at the development stage.
Cambodia pioneered the creation of protected areas in South East Asia in 1925 by setting aside the Angkor temple complex and surrounding areas for protection. In 1993, a Royal Decree established a national system comprising 23 protected areas classified under four major categories: National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Protected Landscapes, and Multiple Use Areas.
The Department of Nature Conservation and Protection under the Ministry of Environment has the responsibility for overseeing these 23 protected areas and 3 Ramsar sites, two of which are contained within the 23 protected areas. Combined, all of these areas cover 32,289 sq km.
While Cambodia’s mineral resources remain largely unexplored, several important minerals have been discovered, which include bauxite, copper, zinc, gold, iron ore, nickel, granite, gemstones and tungsten. Minerals currently extracted include gemstones and gold - mostly mined by small-scale operators - marble, granite, sand, limestone and salt.
International mining firms see Cambodia as a new frontier that has yet to be explored. Unlike many other parts of the world, there has been little geological exploration of Cambodia since France ended its almost century-long colonisation in 1953. For this reason, and the fact that Cambodia is the only country in South East Asia that allows 100 per cent foreign ownership, overseas mining companies have been keen to invest.
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