Cambodia's largest challenge to increasing freight transportation links is reducing “non-physical barriers” such as payments and processing time rather than road improvements, experts said yesterday.
Transportation firms claimed that the Kingdom’s infrastructure is continually improving, according to Asian Development Bank Country Economist Peter Brimble, speaking at a briefing on the Southern Economic Corridor project yesterday.
The project, spearheaded by the ADB, involves boosting infrastructure investment and related measures along regional routes to improve Southeast Asian linkages.
Discussions with industry insiders showed that moving vehicles through Cambodia was generally improving, Brimble said.
“The problem is both the inefficiencies and coffee-money type payments. That’s the real issue,” he said.
Brimble pointed to ongoing infrastructure improvements in the Kingdom as evidence of change. Construction work on the Sihanoukville to Kampot stretch of the Kingdom’s Southern rail line is set to wrap up in May this year, which will link the port city to Phnom Penh. Progress is also being made towards building the Neak Leung bridge on the road between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh city.
A freight firm representative agreed yesterday that transport procedures can be complex. Transportation and logistics firm TNT Country Manager Sjaak de Klein said yesterday there had been strong progress in infrastructure, adding the focus had shifted over the last five years from roadwork to more capital intensive projects such as bridge construction.
“However the main challenge in Cambodia is the institutional framework,” he wrote yesterday.
Shipping freight internationally often required completing and processing a large number of paper forms at various government ministries, he said, “which are spread across the entire city or located not even [at or near] land borders”.
Cambodia maintains few listed handling fees, while processing time for paperwork is affected by incidents such as a lack of technology, human resources, multiple national holidays, and a lack of empowerment with signatures and decision making, he added.
Sjaak de Klein emphasised Cambodia could overcome these issues, as other Asian nations had already dealt with similar constraints.
Peter Brimble said it was crucial to consider investment beyond infrastructure when developing the corridors.
“At the end of the day, we really want to have an impact. If we just build big roads, big infrastructure, and there aren’t any additional benefits to people surrounding those areas, I think we won’t have succeeded,” he said.