The government is still seeking investment partners from the private sector to cooperate in the building of a brand new city close to Phnom Penh, a minister has said. However, the project is still at the concept stage and some observers remain skeptical about its prospects.
Sophorn Phoeung, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, said the government has been searching for investment partners from the private sectors to build the new city, and now he wants to see “dollar signs” in the form of money on the table.
The city, to be named after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s zodiac animal, the dragon, will be built on up to 300,000 hectares of land at an as-yet undisclosed location between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers.
The project will soak up about $80 billion in investment capital. Up to now, only three Chinese investors have expressed interest. Phoeung said: “There’s yet to be any certainty; and if they’re really sure, they need to show the dollar signs to mean it.”
He continued: “The construction of this new city will proceed once there’s enough money, since the government doesn’t look too favorably upon spending such a big amount of money.
“That’s why we need cooperation from the private sector.” He added, “This new city might need about ten years in order to finish it when we get sufficient capital; however, the master plan has already been mapped out.
“For 580 years Cambodia never had any construction of new cities, that’s why we’re building one, and naming it Samdech Decho Dragon City, which is prime minister Hun Sen’s zodiac animal. In the city, there will be a building looking like a dragon bursting forth from underground.”
Phoeung claimed that the ministry’s plans would ensure that the new city would not cause traffic jams. “We have already mapped out the infrastructure for the underground route, the water route, and the dry route in the master plan, ensuring that there will be no traffic congestion problems 500 years forward.” He added that the city’s design would have a “contemporary Cambodian style” to it as well as a “modern feel”.
Ly Hour, director of the Housing Development Association of Cambodia (HDAC), is one of those who doubt the project will come to fruition. He said: “I welcome this project because if it really is built, it can participate in the development of the country.
“However, I don’t have much optimism for the construction of the city, because I lack faith in its completion. But we’ll see. If it can really be completed, I will have nothing but congratulatory words.
“Talking about building a city is easy and writing about it is easy. The real hardship is actually building one. In fact, look at Tbong Khmom and its progress as proof of how hard it is.”
Chrek Soknim, CEO of Century21 Mekong, is more optimistic, but said that any city building project can’t be considered a short-term project. “It won’t be completed in one or two years, it needs at least ten years or more. This is a suitable duration due to the increase in population as well as higher GDP per capita.”
Soknim believes that the location will be crucial. He added, “If this city is built adjacent to the National Road 6 that would be great because there are already two or three satellite cities along this road. If there’s an additional satellite city, there will be the potential to consolidate.”
Vann Vat, an expert on urbanisation, said the location for the project would most likely be low-lying and would require robust research into any potential for flooding.
He warned against further major urban development in the greater Phnom Penh area, saying that any new development should be directed towards the regions.
“The government building the city will encourage economic development and provide additional employment. However, the government should focus on other provinces, because if this project is built near the city, it will add more pressure to Phnom Penh.”
He added, “If we build the project near the city, traffic congestion will be even worse, as well as further environmental pollution.”