Health, Garment Sectors Receive French Funding

France on Tuesday announced funding of nearly $15 million to assist Cambodia’s garment and health sectors and promote the country as a film production locale.

At a signing ceremony with officials from the Finance, Health and Culture ministries in Phnom Penh, French Ambassador Jean-Francois Desmazieres said his country’s renewed support of $1.4 million for Better Factories Cambodia was intended to help Cambodia remain a competitive and ethical sourcing destination for textile buyers.

In 2005, France offered the same amount of support to Better Fac­tories, an International Labor Or­gan­­ization program that monitors and helps improve conditions at garment factories.

The funds are intended to make Better Factories a permanent and autonomous organization by 2010.

Garment industry and government officials have in recent months expressed concern for Cambodia’s ability to remain competitive amid declining exports and increasing regional competition.

Tuomo Poutiainen, chief technical adviser for Better Factories Cambodia, said Tuesday that the French funds would be used primarily to help improve labor relations and working conditions, key aspects to Cambodia’s remaining competitive.

“It’s one of the things that helps Cambodia to keep ahead of the others,” he said.

The French Development Agen­cy also announced $10.8 million in support for a pilot project to improve the delivery of health care and provide health insurance in several Takeo province districts, according to Eric Beugnot, the agency’s Cam­bodia director.

Beugnot also said France would offer $2.3 million in support for a Culture Ministry program intended to train Cambodian film crews and provide information technology in order to attract foreign film companies.

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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