Plan calls for a city in every district

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng speaks at an event in January.
Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng speaks at an event in January. Heng Chivoan

Plan calls for a city in every district

The government is considering a plan to build a new “city” in each of the country’s provincial districts in order to make public services more accessible to citizens and encourage investment that will accelerate local development.

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who al so serves as interior minister, recently said his ministry was reviewing a plan to establish a new city in each and every provincial district. He said the new urban centres would provide enormous benefits to citizens by making it easier to disseminate information, easier for civil servants to provide public services and by fostering the local manufacturing and handicrafts sectors.

“Creating such services would bring about greater success for industry and handicrafts business owners, as well as assisting labourers in the area to find employment closer to their homes,” he said. “Moreover, it is an effective strategy toward cutting down the rate of people migrating to live in the capital.”

Kheng did not define which features constitute a city, how much the plan would cost, or who would fund the endeavour.

However, he said by establishing more “cities” the government will make public services more readily available to citizens, adding that each new city would include a one-window service office – where multiple government offices are accessible in a single location.

The government established the first one-window service office in 2003 and has since expanded the program to include over 40 offices in the major provincial capitals.

Kheng said the offices make public services more accessible to citizens and reduce the amount of travel required to obtain these services. This in turn promotes development of the local private sector and the nation as a whole.

“As per the government’s policies, the [city development] plan is to be implemented everywhere and will focus especially on expanding the one-window service offices into the communes.”

Cambodia has 165 provincial districts and a city that serves as the provincial capital in each of its 25 provinces.

Chea Sophara, minister of land management, urban planning and construction, said the government’s plan to establish a new city in every provincial district will encourage local development and extend public investments into these rural areas.

He said existing cities and towns have seen high growth, and new urban centres could extend the benefits of development into rural areas.

“It has been observed that a number of town centres are enjoying fast-paced development,” Sophara said. “Incomes and economic activities are improving.”

Ngeth Chou, senior consultant at Emerging Markets Consulting, said creating new cities just to make public services more readily available for citizens does not make a lot of sense. However, if the government builds new cities to encourage more investment in provincial districts it would create more local job opportunities and reduce the rate of economic migration to the capital.

“Creating new cities will push the government to invest much more at a local level, and that’s something to celebrate if the government manages to pull it off,” he said, adding that if additional businesses or enterprises established in rural areas could absorb much of the local labour force.

Hy Thouk, chief of Pearang district in Prey Veng province, said he supports the government’s plan to build more cities and expand its one-window service office program as this would make public services more accessible to citizens. He said the government is paying special attention to local development in accordance with its decentralisation policy.

“Improving the employment rate and offering more services at a local level is essential in helping develop these areas,” he said.

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