Worker Khai Sokhan, 23, performs various tasks at Sov Vuthy’s construction materials site in Trapang Rokar village. The company provides construction materials for the building of roads, factories and private homes.
GIVEN its proximity to Phnom Penh, it’s hardly surprising that trade and services form a more significant proportion of Kampong Speu’s economy than is the case in more remote provinces.
According to Sann Mao, branch manager for ACLEDA Bank in Kampong Speu, about 60 per cent of the bank’s loans are to customers involved in trade and services, as opposed to 35 per cent for agriculture.
“The economic situation in Kampong Speu has improved,” Sann Mao says. “We have three major routes, National Highway 3, 4 and 5, and it is also close to Phnom Penh.”
Sov Vuthy, 27, is one person who benefits from Kampong Speu’s improved infrastructure.
For five years, he has worked at his brother’s construction-materials warehouse in Trapang Rokar, about 10km outside the provincial capital on National Highway 4.
“This site is close to the national highway, and around here we have a lot of factories,” Sov Vuthy says. “When you have factories, people want to construct more as well.”
The company has a regular workforce of five, although extra staff are hired for busy periods.
“Sales are best between November and the Cambodian New Year,” Sov Vuthy says. “After they [the villagers] have harvested the rice, they start to build and renovate houses.”
The company provides construction materials to companies building roads and factories, as well as to individual house-builders. Pipes and pillars are manufactured on site from raw materials brought in from elsewhere in the province.
“Each month, we can supply materials for two homes,” Sov Vuthy says. “We provide materials for the people just around here.”
Despite this, business is nowhere near as strong as during the construction boom of a few years ago.
“In 2006-7, the price of land went up and the demand for construction was high at that time, so business grew bigger and bigger. But business at the moment is not so good.”
Sov Vuthy explains that although sales are still strong, the company has had to extend credit to customers who can’t afford to pay for materials they have bought.
“We have a lot of problems with customers not paying us the money they owe,” he says. “Right now, we have suspended giving credit to new customers. If they are old customers, we let them have credit.”
Sov Vuthy believes the development of more factories in Kampong Speu province will help stimulate a fresh construction boom.
“If the villagers have more income and can build more houses, we can do good business,” he says. “But right now, it’s not so good.
“In the future, if there are more factories in this area, people will have more jobs and they can build more houses. That’s good for businesses like us.” INTERPRETER: RANN REUY