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Infrastructure development struggles to keep pace with needs of a growing city

Phnom Penh’s headache-inducing traffic congestion calls for major infrastructure upgrades.
Phnom Penh’s headache-inducing traffic congestion calls for major infrastructure upgrades. Heng Chivoan

Infrastructure development struggles to keep pace with needs of a growing city

City expansion and the fast rate of private-sector development are causes for celebration.

However, Phnom Penh citizens continue to be disappointed when heavy rain floods the streets, causing rubbish to float and blocking the sewage system.

Experts agree that an urbanising city such as Phnom Penh needs a strict adherence to the master plan as a long-term solution to develop a fast-growing city in a systematically orderly fashion.

Vann Vat, an independent urbanisation expert, told Post Property earlier this week that various infrastructure developments associated with the government’s national development plan, such as organising special economic zones and the construction of roads and bridges, are done in accordance with the outline of the urbanisation plan and the government’s master plan.

A big drawback, however, is that the execution per se is lacking.

“Organising the development plans of the government can elevate the value of real estate properties of a particular area. Therefore, those who benefit from this development should procure a comparison with the government in order to develop other infrastructure,” Vat said.

“I have seen the government’s efforts in building infrastructure, but the development rate pales in comparison to that of the private sector.”

Vat added that he had observed fast investment and implementation rates by other countries’ respective governments regarding developing infrastructure, and he hoped the Cambodian government would consider prioritising infrastructure development to enable quicker construction timeframes.

He went on to bemoan Phnom Penh’s worsening traffic deadlocks, a problem he attributes to a lack of suitable infrastructure.

“Cambodia is starting to have extra heavy traffic congestion problems – a huge challenge caused by inadequate infrastructure,” Vat said.

“We already have a lot of streets, but we don’t have a proper management system, because local authorities are unable to fulfil duties put out by the central government.”

With the complexity of the country’s wide-ranging infrastructure issues becoming more visible every day, a holistic approach whereby the private sector implements government mandates is needed to make some significant improvements, according to Peng Sari, CEO of Cambodia Angkor Real Estate.

“Establishing a city or a country requires participation from the private sector, and adhering to the master plan,” he said.

Phnom Penh deputy governor and City Hall spokesperson Mean Chanyada said developing the city’s infrastructure led to many benefits, but cautioned that developments spearheaded by private companies who hadn’t undertaken adequate prior research could cause the development to veer in the opposite direction of the city’s own plan.

He continued, “The city has a yearly budget to invest in various infrastructure [projects], but I will not specify the amount.”

Chanyada added that without an overarching development plan that included research and involved technical experts, the project outcome could end up being more of a hindrance in the future. He stressed the need for sufficient consultation between the private and public sector prior to any infrastructure projects moving ahead.

Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesperson Seng Lot said that usually, each individual province or city was responsible for their own infrastructure developments.

As for the execution, Lot said it gets handed down to a department or an institution that specialises in that particular field of development.

Huy Vanna, secretary general of the Housing Development Association of Cambodia said in the past, the private sector had participated greatly in establishing some of Phnom Penh’s critical infrastructure needs, such as implementing sewage systems, roads and electrical projects.

However, he said the government needed to have a streamlined regulatory and legal process when it came to the implementation of infrastructure projects which would aid the private sector.

“The most important thing that the private sector wants is for the ministries and institutions involved to ease the legal procedures and quicken up the process.”

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