Your Excellency SUN Chanthol, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. Good morning. Today marks the beginning of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), which seeks to inspire people everywhere through local, national, and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators. In this spirit, it is a great honor to participate in the opening of this seminar on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). I hope this seminar will help foster stronger business relationships between Cambodia and the United States.
Cambodia offers diverse investment opportunities across multiple sectors to include agriculture, tourism, and construction. I believe, these investment opportunities are made possible because of forward looking leadership from Cambodian government officials, such as H.E. Sun Chanthol. These efforts are building an increasingly attractive investment climate in Cambodia, which has supported an average annual growth rate of seven percent for over 10 years. OPIC can help continue to fuel this growth and move the Cambodian economy from lower-middle income to middle income by connecting like-minded U.S. based companies with local Cambodian companies. Together, we can reach development and growth goals by developing a business climate that promotes transparency, environmental protections, and social sustainability.
Cambodia has made great strides in making reforms and supporting improvements in the private sector to attract investment. The United States wants to be a partner in this process. However, challenges remain, including the need for increased skills training, improved infrastructure, and more efficient logistics processes. We call upon you in this room to also play a part in addressing these challenges. In particular, investing in Cambodia’s youth population could be a major driver in the country’s development. This brings to mind a Khmer proverb, “Active hands, full bellies.” I take this to mean that to get the best product from your people they need healthy food and water, a clean environment to live and work in, and training to develop and optimize their skills.
The U.S. interest in supporting countries such as Cambodia can be summarized by a quote from former President Clinton, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.”
I would like to thank OPIC representatives Geoff Tan, Loren Rodwin, and Rette Lopp for offering this introductory seminar today. I’d also like to recognize the American and Cambodian business leaders in this room for taking the time to learn more about what OPIC can offer. I hope this seminar today will translate into future partnerships with OPIC to contribute to Cambodia’s economic growth. I would especially like to thank H.E. SUN Chanthol for hosting this workshop and to the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia for sponsoring the beverages and snacks. Thank you.