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Lockdown drags down construction

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Workers worked at a construction site in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district on January 25, 2021. Hean Rangsey

Lockdown drags down construction

Blockades and other movement restrictions imposed to stave off the spread of Covid-19 – further fuelled by the February 20 community outbreak – have brought the construction sector to a near standstill, according to industry insiders.

Ieng Sotheara, co-founder of Arakawa Co Ltd, which owns the Arakawa Residence condominium development, told The Post on April 28 that the project was behind schedule and that the number of workers had been reduced from 2,000 before the lockdown to about 100, all of whom stay onsite.

In addition to labour shortages brought on by the travel ban, he said the project also encounters obstacles in transporting construction materials to supply the site.

"Construction on the Arakawa project during this period has been minimal because there is not enough manpower and even if there were, we wouldn't have enough construction materials," Sotheara said.

However, he expects operations to return back to normal as soon as the government “is able to control the spread of Covid-19”.

Huy Vanna, secretary-general of advisory firm Housing Development Association of Cambodia, said the mere announcement of travel restrictions had led to a sharp drop in the construction sector, especially in Phnom Penh and Kandal province's Takmao town.

He cited a lack of labour and shortage of construction materials as the two main reasons for the stagnation of construction activities.

"Since construction is not a priority during the lockdown, the number of workers at each site has been nearly completely diminished. At the same time, the transportation of construction materials cannot be smooth," he said, playing down the ongoing blockade measures as mere short-term set-backs.

However, he called on the people to remain vigilant and do their part in carrying out government measures so that the blockades could end soon.

Cambodia Constructors Association general manager and secretary Chiv Sivpheng pointed out that activity was more sluggish still at smaller projects that don't have workers staying onsite or the storage space for spare construction materials.

He said, however, that the lull could end soon as the government strives to boost economic activity and return travel to normal.

"I acknowledge that activity at the sites is really declining sharply, especially at smaller buildings that do not have the equipment," he said, asserting that the coronavirus vaccination campaign would get things back to normal soon.

The value of approved construction projects in 2020 was $7.753 billion, down 32 per cent from $11.43 billion in 2019, according to a report from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

However, Vanna expects construction activity in 2021 to be lower than it was in 2020.

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