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