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Paving the way


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Cambodia will spend at least $2.5 billion to implement a 12-year national road reconstruction program, said Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol.

Known as the Road Asset Management Project (RAMP), the work is expected to generate substantial benefit to the nation, according to a report from the ministry’s General Department of Public Works.

Implemented in three phases, RAMP will connect Cambodia to the region via ASEAN Highway 1, which connects Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok via Phnom Penh, and ASEAN Highway 11, which stretches from Sihanoukville north into Laos.

The connections will make Cambodia part of 23 routes involving over 38,000 kilometers of ASEAN highways.

“These projects will make it possible for local people to get access to all kinds of social services, markets for agricultural produce and nonagricultural employment opportunities,” said Ouk Nida, the senior project implementation officer for infrastructure at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Ouk Nida said the improved network would benefit people’s living conditions by reducing transportation costs and times as well as enabling safer and more economical transportation between commercial and residential areas.

Improving the nation’s roads should remain a top priority of the government, agreed Cambodian Economic Association president Chan Sophal.

“Road construction and rehabilitation is vital for the transport of both passengers and goods,” said Chan Sophal.

Cambodia’s development partners, including the ABD, the World Bank (WB) and development agencies from China, Japan and South Korea, have already made grants and loans for work on National Roads 1, 3, 6A, 7, 8, 33, and 78, noted a World Bank report.

“Cambodia’s road network measures approximately 38,257 kilometers, including 4,757 kilometers of national roads and 5,700 kilometers of provincial roads under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and 27,800 kilometers of tertiary roads under the responsibility of the Ministry of Rural Development,” said the report.

The road network was still in a developmental stage, and most roads were in poor condition, with the tarmac hammered by old and dilapidated trucks. Motorbikes and even animal-drawn carts were being used to carry goods in some parts of the country.

“About 90% of other roads are still in bad condition, even though the primary national road network has been improved,” said Ouk Nida, who noted that ADB has already funded repair of National Roads 5, 6, 33, 56, and 68.

ADB has spent more than $250 million in Cambodia since 1993. Its work includes seven major road repair projects as well as several drainage and flood-control schemes across Cambodia, he said.

Between 1992 and 2007 Japan provided more than $1.3 billion in financial assistance in the form of bilateral grants and extended a $182 million loan for the rehabilitation and development of the Cambodian road system, according to a Japanese report issued in May.

“The government of Japan has provided approximately US$250 million in grant aid for road rehabilitation and construction, whereas about US$150 million has gone to bridge construction and rehabilitation,” according to a statement from the Japanese embassy.

South Korean Ambassador to Cambodia Shin Hyun Suk noted in May, meanwhile, that “South Korea has provided another $37 million, adding to the $17 million in Economic Development Cooperation Fund loans to the Cambodian government to finish the National Road 3 rehabilitation project.”

While the World Bank said the objective of RAMP was to ensure continued effective use of the rehabilitated national and provincial road network in support of Cambodian economic development, Cambodian Economic Association president Chan Sophal worried that “Cambodia will lose if the roads are low in quality or lack maintenance because the government has borrowed from other countries, and most of the projects have been handled by foreign companies, giving few local companies experience in big projects.”

RAMP includes a plan for maintenance and repair of roads built or improved under the project, according to the General Department of Public Works report.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport estimated that there were about 670,000 motorbikes and 197,000 automobiles plying the nation’s roads at the end of 2007, including, according to World Bank estimates, 326,310 motorbikes, 102, 810 lighter vehicles and 17,880 heavy trucks that were not registered.

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