Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia facing a dilemma on plan to give roads a facelift

Cambodia facing a dilemma on plan to give roads a facelift

Garment workers seen commuting on National Road 6 in September in Kampong Cham province.
Garment workers seen commuting on National Road 6 in September in Kampong Cham province. Heng Chivoan

Cambodia facing a dilemma on plan to give roads a facelift

With more than half of Cambodia’s 6,000 kilometres of roads being classified as “poor” or of “bad” quality by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, industry insiders said that the government needs to engage with the private sector to spur investment into quality construction and maintenance projects.

Speaking at a conference yesterday on resilient infrastructure, Sam Chow, an East Asia Transport Consultant for global firm Arup, said that while Cambodia is desperately in need of more highways, there are several obstacles that stand in the way of quality road development.

“In many instances, builders do not have up-to-date technologies, and roads are often built by untrained labourers who lack supervision,” he said. “For most roads, bad quality is a result of poor funding.”

Construction of Cambodian roads is in need of more formal investment, he said, adding that the government could raise revenue for the high maintenance costs of increased wear and tear through the imposition of tolls or by finding private sector investors.

“As business grows, drivers overload their trucks, which leads to safety issues and also increased weight on the road,” he said.

“A fast-growing economy like the one in Cambodia usually comes with increased movement logistics, which will greatly damage roads.”

In addition, he said that the government needs to conduct a cost-benefit analysis when choosing the size of an initial investment into a road project to see if it is both feasible and profitable.

He added the government needs to choose between investing in shoddier dirt roads, which require little funding but have higher levels of maintenance, or investing in asphalt roads, which cost significantly more but require fewer repairs.

“You may very well find that the higher cost at the start is worthwhile,” he said.

Currently, 70 percent of all Cambodian roads have been funded by China and built by Chinese companies, which often use a cheap construction method involving laying down a thin layer of crushed stones topped by rubberised asphalt.

Thou Samnang, deputy director at the Heavy Equipment Center of the MPWT, explained that the ministry’s main focus is on road asset management, which is the maintenance and smoothing of Cambodia’s existing roadways.

“The government is spending a lot of time on road maintenance, because of a lack of infrastructure,” he said. “But we cannot forget maintenance, because in Cambodia especially where there is a long rainy season, water can damage the foundations of roads.”“Repair is an important factor for sustainability,” he said.

Nou Vaddhanak, director general of the Technical General Department of the MPWT, agreed that the Kingdom was in need of longer-lasting structures and greater investment, but could not provide any details on how the government would secure proper funding.

“We need good-quality roads to prolong the life of our structures, and mostly what we need now is investment,” he said. “The intent of the government is to attract the private sector to participate, [however we] normally have road projects funded by other countries.”

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,