The World Bank (WB) has approved an additional $35 million of financing projects which will improve the quality of rural roads in Kratie, Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum provinces.

It is expected that the work will improve the lives of more than two million people across the three provinces.

The projects will improve access to markets, healthcare and education which often suffered during the rainy season. The WB approved financing of $100 million in 2020, but due to inflation, it became necessary to add the additional funds.

The credit was approved by the WB International Development Association (IDA) at its headquarters in Washington, DC, on March 15, according a WB press release.

The press release explained that the additional $35 million will be provided to the Cambodia Road Connectivity Improvement Project (RCIP), which aims to improve climate resilient road access to markets, health services, and schools across Kratie, Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum. The three provinces have a population of over 2 million people, more than 80 per cent of who live in rural areas.

According to the WB’s Country Climate and Development Report for Cambodia, the roads lack pavement coverage and effective floodwater management. The climate vulnerability of these roads has a negative effect on the residents of these provinces, which accumulates over time.

“Poor road conditions also raise transportation and logistics costs for critical agriculture products produced in the targeted provinces. The additional financing will help pay for higher-than-anticipated project costs, mainly for road works contracts,” the release explained.

In the past three years, high inflation and price increases of key inputs, including fuel and bitumen, have resulted in higher costs than were estimated in 2019, before the approval of the original project.

In addition, additional surveys showed that some of the innovations and engineering designs of this road project also require increased funding. Currently, the road rehabilitation works are underway across 130km of targeted national and provincial roads and 142km out of 279km targeted rural roads.

Maryam Salim, WB country manager for Cambodia, said people in rural areas face great challenges during the rainy season.

“In addition, poor road conditions, disruptions caused by floods and high transportation costs are major impediments to access to healthcare and emergency care for expectant mothers,” she was quoted as saying in the press release.

Chey Tech, a socio-economic researcher and development expert, noted that the improvement of rural roads is in line with the government’s strategic plan to prioritise water, electricity, roads and people.

“This project is very important for the development of Cambodia. It will help many people, especially those living in rural areas, improve connectivity, allowing them to access essential services. Rural people are mostly engaged in agriculture, and will find it easier to transport their goods to market,” he said.

Tech added that the WB had made significant contributions to Cambodia’s development process before the Kingdom was ready to leave the Least Developed Countries (LDC) status. It provided a lot of ongoing financial assistance, especially through concessional loans to the government on economic, agricultural and infrastructure development.

The RCIP project is being jointly implemented by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Rural Development.