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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ADB, govt announce $36m labour project

ADB, govt announce $36m labour project

Labourers in seven provinces will no longer be paid in rice but in cash as part of a project by the government and ABD.

Rural labourers in seven provinces to receive pay in cash rather than rice, as was previously the case, in three-year programme.

THE government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced Friday a US$36 million cash-for-work programme targeting the rural poor over three years.

The three-year Emergency Food Assistance Project is to pay impoverished labourers in seven provinces to help improve roads and irrigation systems.

The ADB is to provide $30 million, which is partly a grant and partly a concessional loan, while the government is to contribute the rest.

Vong Sandap, the project's director, told the Post on Sunday the programme will run from 2009 to 2011 and cover 200 communes.

He said that poor villagers who contribute to digging canals and building roads would, for example, be paid $2 per cubic metre of land dug up for a canal.

"We hope the project ... will help poor people in rural areas get jobs, earn incomes and expand on infrastructure and irrigation," he said.

The ADB's press officer, Kem Chantha, said Sunday that the bank was providing $18 million in the form of a grant, and the remaining $12 million in the form of a low-interest loan.

He said the bank has worked with the government since October, providing "labour rice" to more than 500,000 poor people in the seven provinces. But the economic slowdown spurred the decision to pay people cash.

Kem Chantha said most people in rural areas lack work and the money with which to buy food and goods.

"The ADB thinks that providing people with cash will not only help to encourage the improvement of road irrigation infrastructure in rural areas, but will also generate incomes for people in the face of the global economic crisis," he said.

The switch to providing cash rather than rice follows the call last week by ADB Vice President Ursula Schaefer-Preuss for governments in the region to consider paying cash to vulnerable families hit by the global economic crisis.

The policy, called Conditional Cash Transfers, or CCTs, hands out cash in exchange for recipients' taking part in activities or programmes such as attending school or prenatal care.

"CCTs ... provide counter-cyclical funds into the hands of the most vulnerable, who are likely to spend the money on essential items such as food and housing," she said at the opening of a social assistance forum in the Philippines on Thursday.

The ADB said that CCT programmes currently operate in Mexico, Brazil and Nicaragua, and are being expanded in Asia too.

The ADB's former food-for-work programme was not the first in Cambodia. Since the mid-1990s, the International Labor Organisation (ILO) has run its own nationwide project in conjunction with the World Food Programme in which people are paid with rice in exchange for building rural infrastructure.

The seven provinces included in the ADB's Emergency Food Assistance Project are: Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom.



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