The government is currently drafting the final stages of a development master which will transform Preah Sihanouk province into a multi-purpose special economic zone in two stages. It envisions the province as a green, smart city trade and finance hub by 2038.

The master plan has not yet been finalised, but is being reviewed and discussed by the members of an inter-ministerial coordinating committee, led by Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth. The committee met for the third time on July 9, according to a finance ministry press release.

The master plan to turn the province into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone” is expected to be submitted to the government for approval soon, according to the release. 

It described the master plan as a compass for developing the province into an important economic pole to boost economic growth, ensuring sustainable social development and environmental protection.

Through the plan, it explained, Preah Sihanouk will become Cambodia's international gateway with multi-modal and logistics centres, business centres and international financial centres. The province will also become a national development pole with global tourism destinations, including world-class beaches and archipelagos. It also envisions the province as a national centre of industrial development and technological innovation.

According to the ministry, Sihanouk province will become one of the largest cities in the ASEAN region, with a reputation as a “green, sustainable, multicultural and intelligent” model city.

To achieve this vision, the master plan is divided into two phases.

The first, set to run from 2025 to 2028, will focus on the province’s integration into regional trading systems.

The second, from 2029 to 2038, will focus on strengthening the province as a national gateway and regional hub in the areas of finance and trade, as well as a smart, high-income green city.

A draft of the master plan has not yet been made available.

People's Centre for Development and Peace (PDP) president Yong Kim Eng views Preah Sihanouk province, and Sihanoukville in particular, as an important location for Cambodia in terms of trade and tourism.

However, he noted that the province appears to lack strong public order and also observed that the construction of high-rise buildings appears to have stagnated since the Covid-19 pandemic.

He believed that to continue developing the province, the government needs to push for the completion of unfinished buildings. In addition, there should be a clear urban development plan, which will not affect the province’s natural attractions.

He would also like to see large green spaces, modern road infrastructure and ample parking spaces. 

Kim Eng underlined that in his opinion, the public’s perception of security issues remains the most important obstacle to Preah Sihanouk’s development.