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Sihanoukville in the dark over Ariston cash

Sihanoukville in the dark over Ariston cash

T HE controversial $1.3 billion Ariston deal to develop a casino and

infrastructure in Sihanoukville has caused barely a ripple in the southern

province.

Governor Thoan Bun Sron has been told practically nothing about

the deal.

He had only heard in passing that Ariston was refurbishing the casino ship

Heritage that will be operating in Phnom Penh.

"Is that true?" he asked.

"They have been allowed to bring a ship into Phnom Penh... what happened to

Sihanoukville?"

"The primary aims of the deal is for here

(Sihanoukville), not there ( in Phnom Penh ),"Bun Sron said.

Still the

province is waiting for the first dollar to be invested there.

"I can

understand the big investors waiting to see who is coming here first, to see

maybe if anyone gets burned or not," he said.

However, Bun Sron said that should Ariston "spend $100 million

straightway...that will create a big spin-of."

Any expenditure in

electricity supply, sewage, roading, "anything, we are just waiting who will be

first to come. We know some (companies) want to come... they are just not sure,"

he said.

Since the Ariston deal was singed three company representatives

had visited on a courtesy call. "Hopefully they will be coming back soon to

start something serious."

"I don't know if Ariston is required (under

the deal) to have time limits or deadlines, I just don't know."

Meanwhile, But Sron said he had been told that three Cambodian

province-Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh muncipality and Siem Reap-would soon be

allowed to collect their own revenue from local taxes.

"We get no help

from Phnom Penh. We have asked but they are unable to provide us with material

assistance," he said.

Currently, all local revenue goes to central

government coffers. Provinces submit development proposals for financial

approval.

"This has caused a lot of delays and difficulties," he said

He said that even projects as small as repairing a one kilometer stretch

of local road had to be costed and approved from Phnom Penh.

"This system

has to be changed. I'm told the government is looking to change it this year,"

he said, referring to the above three areas.