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Impasse in Tbong Khmum over who starts building first

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Tbong Khmum Provincial Hall. Hin Pisei

Impasse in Tbong Khmum over who starts building first

A classic chicken or egg situation is developing in Tbong Khmum province where plans to build a model city in the middle of a teak forest have stalled.

Land speculators and developers say they are ready to start building, but won’t begin until the government gets cracking on basic infrastructure projects such as roads, power and water supplies.

The government, however, is looking to the private sector to start first – and wants developers themselves to lead-manage the infrastructure.

Veng Sikour, a developer with a 20-hectare project on plan, said it was important for the government to make the first move.

“The project can’t move forward as the people have not moved into this area since they are waiting for infrastructure development by the authorities,” he said.

“The important thing now is that the government should make the first move, because if the situation remains like this, people will not move into the new city. A private company wouldn’t dare to make the first move and throw in a big investment as they are afraid of failing.”

Tbong Khmum has been planned as a so-called role-model city for Cambodia, with a master plan drawn up by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

It is planned in a spot intersecting Ponhea Kraek district, Dambae district and Suong district in Tbong Khmum province.

The blueprint sees detailed urban zoning, with certain areas designated for commercial, residential or administrative purposes. It will also boast proper water and sewage systems.

Oknha Cheng Kheng, CEO of Huttons CPL said that Tbong Khmum had great potential as the master plan was well thought out to ensure sustainable development.

“I think the city will eventually flourish and will prove a role model for Cambodia as the infrastructure is well organised,” he said.

Cheng said the number of land transactions showed there was interest, but investors and developers were still unsure how and when the infrastructure master plan would be implemented.

“The provincial authorities should take control to manage and organise precise infrastructure development including roads and sewage to avoid uncertainty,” he said.

The Ly Hour Group has plans to build a market and a residential project in the city, but also has those on hold.

“I already have a site for this development project but the kick-off depends on the market,” said CEO Oknha Ly Hour.

Dr Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, director-general of the Residential Department of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the government was encouraging private companies to start.

Tbong Khmum Governor Ly Leng declined to comment on the impasse.

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