On November 28, 2014, a team of local PEP researchers in Cambodia - who had been granted support under the 1st round of the PAGE program - organized a "policy roundtable", in Phnom Penh, to communicate and discuss their PEP research findings and related policy implications to/with policy makers and other stakeholders at the national level. The event attracted high-profile participants from the Cambodia government - including the Minister of Commerce himself - the public and private sectors, as well as from international institutions and civil society organizations.
This particular PEP study, of which the outcomes were discussed, aimed to assess the impacts of Cambodia’s trade liberalization and related changes in fiscal policy on growth, employment and poverty in the country - using CGE modeling and simulation techniques. Find out more about this PEP project.
Indeed, as it prepares for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC, by the end of 2015), trade liberalization and economic integration (both regional and international) have become top policy priorities for the Royal Government of Cambodia in recent years. Although this strategy - of which the stated goals are to create jobs, foster economic growth and reduce poverty - has been elaborated in a number of Government policy frameworks, there had yet been no evidence produced from in-depth analysis to support such policies, e.g. assessing the potential costs and benefits. This certainly explains the interest raised by the PEP researcher's study and findings among high-level decision-makers and stakeholders from various sectors.
The event was organized as part of series of seminars held, periodically, by the Cambodian Economic Association (CEA) - to which several of the PEP research team members belong. However, for the organization of this particular "policy roundtable", the CEA received the special support and collaboration of the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce and Chamber of Commerce - which contributed to drawing increased attention to both the event and the research issues/findings.
The discussion also benefited from the active participation of high-level government officials, including the Minister of Commerce, the Director General of International Trade, the CEA President and Director General of the National Bank of Cambodia, the IMF Resident Representative, as well as major actors of the private sector (including three of Cambodia's top exporters).
Overall, the comments suggest that these participants and other attendants were generally impressed by the quality and relevance of the PEP research findings. Many detailed technical, practical and related policy questions were discussed during the meeting among the presenter (PEP researcher Senh Senghor), the MoC minister and other participants. Specific comments that suggest the potential influence of the PEP project's outcomes for future policymaking include those from:
- The Minister of Commerce, who highlighted the timeliness of such evidence and relevance to inform policymaking in the context of Cambodia's increasing economic integration in the region, especially with the AEC 2015. Beyond those positive effects of tariff elimination on various aspects of the national economy, he also noted the potential negative impact on the agriculture sector, and the need for related policy responses (such as to attract investments in the sector) given that the majority of Cambodia's poor population depend on income from agricultural activities.
- The CEA President and Director of the NBC also stressed the importance of the PEP research project, not only as a source of reliable evidence base for policymaking, but also as it contributed to building a bridge between the government and the research community. She added that the CEA would henceforth commit more efforts to strengthen this connection.
- The private sector representatives insisted on the importance for them to participate in such events, to learn of the most recent policy developments regarding economic integration and trade liberailzation, as well as of the potential impacts for the Cambodian economy, so as to adapt their business strategies and activities.
Finally, before closing the event, the Minister of Commerce unofficially called on all relevant economists, particularly those PEP-CEA researchers, to pursue their analyses of trade and labor issues. More specifically, he mentioned the importance of investigating the potential effects of Special Economic Zones to be established in Thailand on labor movements from Cambodia.