Chinese companies have built more than 3,000km of roads and eight major bridges with total length of more than 8km for the Kingdom, funded by concessional loans from the Chinese government in excess of $3 billion, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chantol said on December 2.
He was delivering a speech via video link to the 11th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum held in Macau which covered topics such as the challenges facing global infrastructure investment.
Chanthol said: “I believe [the forum] will bring great ideas and plans to promote global infrastructure development in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
As a highlight of the Chinese-led projects, he listed the more-than-$1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway in development by China Road and Bridge Corp, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed majority-state-owned multinational engineering and construction firm China Communications Construction Co Ltd.
He pointed out that another Chinese firm is conducting a feasibility study for a second expressway linking Phnom Penh to the Bavet-Moc Bai international border, which will facilitate travel to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
At the same time, he underscored that Japan, South Korea, World Bank, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank and other development partners have offered a helping hand and the necessary concessional loans and grants to reinforce the Kingdom’s infrastructure.
He said it was through their financing that the Kingdom’s railways linking Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh and the capital to the Thai border were refurbished.
Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, which he said handles more 60 per cent of Cambodia’s container traffic, has been expanded and modernised.
He said a new container port serving Phnom Penh has been built, while two new international airports for the capital and Siem Reap are in the pipeline.
“Funding from all development partners – public and private – allows us to upgrade our road network, connect Phnom Penh to all provincial capitals . . . [and] facilitate domestic and international trade and investment,” Chanthol said.
He stressed the vital role that infrastructure investment and construction plays in national socio-economic development and providing the platform for growth, generating jobs and facilitating trade and investment.
Increased regional and global connectivity also advances a country’s competitive advantage, he said.
But most developing countries face real challenges in effectively securing the funds to build adequate infrastructure, he added.
In that vein, he said, Cambodia appreciates Chinese-led schemes such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Silk Road Fund, the 21st Century Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that support and mobilise funds for its much-needed infrastructure development projects.
He contended that these can connect peoples across participating countries and thus improve their living standards.
“Cambodia is proud to be one of the founding members of AIIB and a supporter and major beneficiary of the initiative,” Chantol said.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post in September that the government is cautious in accepting loans from international institutions and can still afford to take in more loans to develop infrastructure including roads, bridges and irrigation systems.
He said: “Our infrastructure system does not yet meet the needs of the people to transport their goods and agricultural products to the market.
“The loan will provide more opportunities for the government to develop more efficient infrastructure,” he said, referring to a $65 million AIIB loan to the Kingdom that aimed to restore rural productive capacity and support the government’s Covid-19 crisis response.
In 2011, a joint survey by the Japanese government’s overseas aid body Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Cambodia needs more than $13 billion in infrastructure by 2020 if it intends to continue attracting foreign investment.
It needs about $1.2 billion in infrastructure spending per year, half of which needs to go to new projects and the other half to the maintenance of existing ones, it said.