Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday addressed the Kingdom’s spending on new infrastructure projects during the groundbreaking ceremony for 34 new roads in Preah Sihanouk province amid calls for greater transparency over Cambodia’s expenditures.
“Originally, the cost for the project came to $294 million, but that posed a lot of questions. Some people asked: ‘Why are the roads so expensive?’ or ‘Where is the money to build roads coming from?’
“I would like to emphasise that taxes generate more than enough income for the government’s budget. The income generated through customs imports alone is about $250 million on average.
“Cambodia earns about $500 million each month, and between $300-400 million is spent each month so Cambodia can save $100-200 million per month,” he said.
Hun Sen said that the 84km-long stretch of road networks were originally estimated to cost $294 million, but the government was able to negotiate the cost down by some $100 million.
“I want to emphasise that we aren’t playing all the cards we’re dealt,” he said, referring to the budget surplus.
“A [benefit] of $100 million is still very small when compared to the whole of the government’s savings in cash,” he said, noting that observers had claimed that the government was “dying of foreign pressure”.
The decision to upgrade the roads came when Hun Sen visited the province during July’s infamous seven-storey building collapse at an illegal construction site which claimed the lives of 28 construction workers.
“At that time, I observed that Preah Sihanouk province’s infrastructure was not what it used to be. It needed to be rebuilt again.
“When we looked up, we saw very beautiful buildings, but when we looked down . . . we saw that we were in mud . . . we were walking, driving cars and motorbikes in mud,” he said, adding that the coastal province was critical to the Kingdom’s economic development.
“The government would not dare approve $300 million in funding for Preah Sihanouk province if it did not successfully attract sources of capital.
“All buildings are decorated with good lighting. But we look down, we walk, ride motorbikes and cars in mud,” the prime minister stressed.
Cambodian National Research Organisation director Sok Sokhom told The Post that it was important that the new roads are built competently as almost every road in Sihanoukville was badly damaged.
“We already know that the redevelopment of the 34 roads is funded by the government. So, the use of the budget to build the roads must be transparent,” Sokhom stressed.
Provincial governor Kouch Chamroeun read a report at the ceremony that said the roads would largely benefit high-end areas of the province popular with tourists. The total construction will include three roundabouts and six bridges spanning 252m.
Chamroeun said the roads were being built to help Sihanoukville’s further transformation from a sleepy coastal province to a model multi-purpose, economic area.
“I humbly request that Samdech Techo Hun Sen order that when the roads are completed, no one is allowed to cut into or drill them,” Chamroeun said.