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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - I can dig it!

I can dig it!

In reaction to Richard Woodd's article "Poor get shovels for 600km of roads"

(Post, August 13, 2004), I would like to draw attention to the paragraph quoting

an ADB staffer responsible for this program as saying "He said jobs would be

created by replacing mechanized road maintenance with local labor..."

As the article explained that poor people in three provinces would be issued with

shovels and paid "the local minimum legal wage" to maintain roads, may

I respectfully suggest that even more jobs could be created if, before issuing the

laborers with those shovels, additional workers could somehow be employed to dull

the blades so as to diminish the implements' effectiveness.

Better still, instead of issuing something as cutting edge (Please forgive the pun.)

as real picks and shovels, why not require the local people to fashion their own

crude implements from sticks and stones? That should slow the work significantly

and so allow for the employment of even more than the 18,800 workers cited in your


I applaud the desire of both the ADB and the Japanese government (the project's financial

backer) to address the need to create employment in the provinces. However, I wonder

whether replacing mechanized road maintenance with picks and shovels and thus pushing

Cambodia even closer to the "Stone Age" does not represent "NGO think"

at its worst.

I have long been baffled that a nation with such a huge NGO presence and such a torrent

of aid money as Cambodia has long enjoyed could somehow remain so poor. When I learn

that the Japanese government and the ADB have joined forces to use my tax dollars

to replace a previously mechanized process with human sweat and shovels, I think

that I understand the sad reality of Cambodia's predicament a little better.

Mark Rosasco - Tokyo, Japan



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