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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Poor get shovels for 600km of roads

Poor get shovels for 600km of roads

Poor rural people in three northwest provinces will be supplied with shovels to maintain

600 kilometers of gravel and earth roads, in a new poverty reduction project organized

by the Asian Development Bank and funded by the Japanese government.

The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction will pay for shovels and wages to maintain secondary

and tertiary roads in areas adjacent to the rehabilitation of highways 5 and 6 between

Poipet and Siem Reap, and installation of 45 new bridges on provincial roads 56 and

68.

The chosen provinces - Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey - are characterized

by having largely rural populations with a high incidence of poverty.

Peter Broch, an ADB transport economist, said the project will pilot test sustainable

low-cost road maintenance and contribute to poverty reduction.

He said it was expected to reduce poverty by 5-10 percent in areas where the roads

were maintained and generate about 18,800 jobs.

"The 5-10 percent is based on a rough estimate of the number of people living

along the roads that will be maintained under the project. The 18,800 jobs is an

estimate based on the road maintenance cost," said Broch.

He said jobs would be created by replacing mechanized road maintenance with local

labor who would be paid the local minimum legal wage, although he was unable to state

the amount.

"Whether better roads does reduce poverty is debated; personally I think there

is compelling evidence that improved roads leads to increased economic activity but

not everybody agrees. In this case we are only considering the direct impact of project-created

additional employment.

"In the long run, if the project establishes a sustainable road maintenance

system, it will open up permanent access to services and income for rural communities."-

One of the objectives was to increase the pool of skilled private small-scale contractors

available to service roads. "The growing number of rehabilitated roads makes

maintenance urgent, especially gravel and earthen rural roads that will deteriorate

in a few years if not regularly maintained," said Broch.

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