Pablo Kang, Launch of P4I in Cambodia

Australian Ambassador Pablo Kang delivers opening remarks at P4I launch n Cambodia
Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia, Pablo Kang, delivers opening remarks during the launch of Partnerships for Infrastructure in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It’s an honour to be here today to launch the Australian Government’s AUD120 million flagship initiative, Partnerships for Infrastructure, or P4I, in Cambodia.

We are joined here by several special guests including Excellency Pheng Sovicheano, Representative of H.E. Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister and Minister of Public Works and Transport, and Secretary of State at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. 

Excellencies, distinguished guests from development partners, embassies, the private sector, the academic and research community, civil society, and other participants in attendance.

P4I’s launch coincides with the momentous 70th anniversary of Australia’s diplomatic ties with Cambodia. This anniversary is a significant milestone and represents our strong and long-standing partnership. 

P4I exemplifies Australia’s deep and enduring support to this country and our commitment to mutual growth in the Indo-Pacific.

Diplomatic Ties between Cambodia and Australia

Since 1952, we have fostered a culture of cooperation, and deepened Australia’s engagement on issues of bilateral, regional and strategic importance, including areas of agriculture, social inclusion, education, defence and security and, most recently, the COVID-19 response and recovery.

For decades, Australia has supported the needs of many Cambodians. Thirty years ago, we took a lead role in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) – a key part of country’s transition and we are both parties to the new Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. 

Our economic links have steadily grown. For example, we are both parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, reaching two-way trade of over AUD750 million before the pandemic.

Collectively, we have built trust, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. We are both members of the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Asia-Europe Meeting.

And this year, Australia is also supporting Cambodia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN within the framework of our ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).
Our extensive people-to-people links underpin the warmth and depth of our friendship and form the bedrock of our diplomatic relations. 

Nearly 22,000 Cambodian students have studied in Australia. In fact, just two weeks ago in this same venue, we welcomed home 60 Australia Awards Alumni and farewelled 80 departing scholarship recipients – each one embarking on a transformative education journey.

Australia’s support to Cambodia

Our development cooperation with Cambodia is exemplified in our existing initiatives such as 3i (Investing in Infrastructure), the Australia-Cambodia Cooperation for Equitable Sustainable Services (ACCESS) Program, the Cambodia-Australia Agricultural Value Chain (CAVAC) Program and our recently announced Cambodia-Australia Partnership for Resilient Economic Development (CAP-RED). This is in addition to our significant commitment through multilateral and regional initiatives like P4I.

In today’s launch, I would also like to highlight some of our major investments in supporting Cambodia’s infrastructure development, which is growing at a rapid pace. 

The AUD 51.7 million 3i program provides investment subsidies to local Cambodian infrastructure companies to expand the reach of essential infrastructure to a million Cambodians.

Through 3i, we are also supporting the Cambodian Government with essential infrastructure-related policy workstreams including, amongst others, the design of a smart city strategy in Sihanoukville, the creation of a ‘Water Development Fund’ that aims to help Cambodia achieve universal access to clean water by 2030, and the production of a Construction Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) guidelines, which I have recently launched with H.E. Chea Sophara, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction on May 24.

In addition to 3i, our CAVAC promotes a commercially viable, resilient agriculture sector that supports trade through infrastructure development. And CAP-RED will focus on supporting Cambodia’s economic recovery and boosting resilience across several sectors in Cambodia. 

H.E. Pheng Sovicheano highlighted Cambodia’s growing Electric Vehicles (EV) sector in his speech, a sector which we also stand ready to support. 

In November 2021, I joined H.E. Sun Chanthol, H.E. Keo Rottanak from Electricité du Cambodge (EdC), and H.E. Tina Redshaw from the British Embassy in Phnom Penh in a panel discussion on the ‘Electrification of Vehicles for a Cleaner Cambodia’ organised by EnergyLab as part of Clean Energy Week. The event raised the profile of transport electrification and what it can do for Cambodia’s electricity system, emissions reduction, and Cambodia’s economy. 

It also kickstarted the scoping of support to MPWT that could potentially be delivered by Australia. The topic includes (1) transitioning government fleet vehicles, (2) battery recycling facilities and battery waste, (3) optimal replacement of charging stations, and (4) transition plan for the existing automotive sector value chains (maintenance, spare parts etc). 

Infrastructure Investment in Cambodia

Cambodia is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies in the Indo-Pacific region, a collaborative and concerted effort is needed to strengthen the enabling environment for inclusive, sustainable growth and to capitalise on opportunities in ways that promote a stable, prosperous and resilient society.
Infrastructure, as we all know, can be a powerful stimulant of economic growth and has an important role to play in driving our countries’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Quality infrastructure development bring countless benefits to society – creating employment and improving services and quality of life for our communities.

But as we have learned over many decades and around the world, infrastructure can also act as a constraint to growth, competitiveness, inclusion, and sustainability.

The Global Infrastructure Hub has estimated that Cambodia has an infrastructure investment gap of around USD28 billion. This translates to a required infrastructure investment of over 2.5 per cent of total GDP between 2016 and 2040 – a target that would have been challenging even before COVID-19.

For Cambodia, significant investment will be required in urban and rural infrastructure to sustain the country’s high rates of economic and export. Increasingly, more of this investment will need to be sourced from the private sector.

I commend the Royal Government of Cambodia for the significant reforms, and policy and capacity strengthening efforts underway to address infrastructure gaps and attract private sector investment, including through your relatively new law on public-private partnerships. 

Australia has a longstanding and trusted reputation for supporting quality infrastructure development in the region and in Cambodia. As I understand, 20 years ago, Australia helped Cambodia to develop engineering standards for roads and bridges. P4I is now scoping work with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to update these standards for the modern era. 

As Cambodia looks towards a post-COVID future, Australia is proud to be expanding our partnership with you to meet the country’s infrastructure needs and drive an inclusive, resilient recovery. 

P4I support to Cambodia and ASEAN

The launch today of Partnerships for Infrastructure not only reflects the opportunities to share infrastructure expertise to deepen collaboration between our two countries, but also for unlocking inclusive growth for Cambodia.

Australia is committed to working with Cambodia on ‘quality infrastructure development that drives inclusive growth’. This includes supporting the integration of disaster and climate resilience, and of gender-equality and social inclusion considerations to ensure infrastructure acts as an enabler rather than a constraint to sustainable, inclusive growth.

I am delighted that in its first year, P4I has generated a strong pipeline of new and potential activities spanning wastewater financing and policy, private-public partnerships, transport infrastructure, telecommunications, and the assessment of quality project financing.

As travel resumes, P4I is also focused on developing new partnerships among Australian and Cambodian government entities to share evidence and innovations, expertise and insights, and further deepen our people-to-people ties.

For example, through P4I the Australian Government’s Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency now stands ready to partner with the Royal Government of Cambodia to support your public investment management priorities. 

We are also pleased to be working with ASEAN through P4I, especially in Cambodia’s ASEAN Chair year and following our recent upgrade in Australia-ASEAN relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Through P4I and other Australian initiatives, our relationship with Cambodia has never been stronger. 

As we officially launch P4I today, I am pleased to see the Cambodia-Australia partnership thriving 70 years after it first began.

I look forward to seeing the benefits of this new infrastructure partnership, to drive inclusive growth, resilience and sustainability, for all Cambodians.

Som Orkun

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