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People watch the construction of the Tsubasa Bridge
People watch the construction of the Tsubasa Bridge late last year as they cross over the Mekong River from Kandal to Prey Veng provinces by ferry. Industry experts say the bridge will be beneficial for Cambodia’s economic growth and make the Kingdom a more attractive destination for investment. Hong Menea

Tsubasa to boost trade and travel

The opening of the $127 million Japanese-funded Tsubasa Bridge today is expected to increase trade between Cambodia and its neighbours, by easing transportation times and costs of goods being moved between Vietnam and the Kingdom, and also reduce travel times for tourists crossing the Mekong River.

The 2.2 kilometre bridge, linking Kandal and Prey Veng provinces, is expected to reduce travel times between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City significantly. The bridge is also a critical part of the GMS Southern Economic Corridor – linking Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Bangkok – that looks to address the high costs and delays involved in cross-border trade.

Mey Kalyan, senior advisor on the Supreme National Economic Council, said the bridge will help increase connectivity within the region and boost Cambodia’s economic growth, making it an attractive destination for foreign direct investment. “It will push the economic growth quicker, reducing cost of goods being imported and exported because transportation costs will be reduced,” he said.

Being strategically placed between Thailand and Vietnam, Kalyan said Cambodia can use this geographic advantage, coupled with its low labour costs, to make exports more competitive.

“The bridge links Cambodia to the deep sea port in Myanmar, Chanborei of Bangkok to Poipet, and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minch City. This will reduce time and money for goods transportation and when transportation cost is reduced, it will also help reduce production costs, making Cambodia more competitive,” he said.

Kalyan, however, said that Cambodia needs to improve its border facilities, check points and custom clearance procedures to fully benefit from the new bridge.

Sin Chanthy, president of Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, said the bridge will help reduce transportation costs and time by 30 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively.

“The bridge is what we long for. It will ease the transportation of garment and rice from Cambodia to seaports in Vietnam and transportation of raw material from Vietnam to Cambodia,” he said. “It used to take us four hours from Phnom Penh to Vietnam. Now we expect it to take only two and a half hours. We also no longer have to pay for ferry tickets.”

Srey Chanthy, an independent economist, said the bridge will help increase trade between Cambodia and Vietnam. The two countries had earlier projected to increase bilateral trade this year to $5 billion.

“Agricultural products from Cambodia will be easily transported to Vietnam and then to China. Goods flowing from Cambodia to China through Vietnam and from China back to Cambodia will use less time and likely it will increase in terms of volume as well,” he added

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Public and Private Sector Tourism Working Group, said the bridge should boost the number of Vietnamese and foreign tourists coming to the Kingdom. “It will encourage not only Vietnamese tourists to come to Cambodia, but also foreign tourists visiting Vietnam to come down to Cambodia as travel times have been cut because now we have the bridge. We do not have to wait for ferry anymore,” he said.

“In the busiest day, the buses have to wait up to four hours to cross the river, but now it will take less than that,” he added.

Vandy said the bridge will also give travellers, who had safety concerns about crossing the Mekong, more confidence.

He added that close to 30 per cent of the total visitors to Cambodia entered the country through international check points on the Cambodia-Vietnam border. additional reporting by moeun NHEAN

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