– Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Assembly and Senate and Government,
– Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, Ambassadors, Distinguished International and National Guests,
– Dear Participants!
Today, it is my great pleasure to meet once again with technical officials, personnel of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPWT) at this Closing of 2007 Stock-Taking Conference and Direction Setting for 2008. Indeed, this meeting is a forum for participants to express their constructive criticism to the leadership and implementations or suggestion for the improvement and fine-tuning the implementation of transportation infrastructure rehabilitation and development policies successfully as planned.
I have reiterated that the key strategies to overcome obstacles and risks is mutual learning, self-building capacity through discussion at forums and stock-taking conferences, and these activities must be conducted constantly like showering rain. Obviously, the sharing of ideas is very important in taking measures and setting direction to fulfill every shortcoming, and especially to spur further implementation of rehabilitation, development and maintenance of transportation infrastructures.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to convey my high compliments to the MOPWT for organizing this stock-taking conference and highly appreciate the efforts of Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen at all level of the management and all subordinates for fulfilling their duties to carry out the policies to rehabilitate, develop and maintain transportation infrastructures and achieve prideful result during the past year.
Indeed, the Rectangular Strategy has clearly envisaged the continuation in the reconstruction and building physical infrastructures which are the vessels intertwining all channels across Cambodia to become economic organ which in turn ensures internal integration and Cambodian economic integration with neighboring countries. In this framework, the government is prideful at making many achievements in the rehabilitation and development of transportation infrastructures for the last several years, which allows for the interconnection between rural area and city as well as the integration of Cambodia into the region and in the world. Those key infrastructures include:
First. National Road No.57 rehabilitation project was launched with enthusiasm from the people in the region that is the last battlefield of 3-decade-plus war. The completion of this project will bring new opportunity to the people dwelling around this region includingMalay, Sampovloun, Borvil, Kam Rieng, Phnom Prek, Pailin and Samlot, the new areas full of arable land, with low density, favorable climate and transforming this region into an economic pole to supply all kinds of agro-products. The rehabilitation project of railroad in North-western region will provide farmers with additional option to choose between railroad or on-land transportation.
Second. The rehabilitation project of the National Road No.62 will help promote the development of Preah Vihea Temple area and the conservation of this Temple which is soon-to-be the world heritage. Over one million tourists visiting temples complex in Siem Reapwill be able to continue their journey to the marvelous Preah Vihea temple without having to cross Thai border. The “Development for Conservation” and “Conservation for Development” concept now reflects the contribution of infrastructure to tourism and national culture. Furthermore, the development of regions along the border and the protection of national integrity are also very vital in principle.
Third. The rehabilitation of National Road No.7, which I called the Cambodian Dragon Economy, and the reconstruction of National Road No.76 and No.78 are fundamentals to transform the North-eastern region into the 4th economic pole in 10 years by making the best use of natural resource, agriculture, mine, beautiful sceneries and natural resort, and to be the firm basis for private sector development. At the same time, the National Road No.7 also promotes the cross-border freighting flow in the Great Mekong Sub-regional framework by enabling Laos PDR to transport goods to Sihanouk Ville seaport.
Forth. The South-western region rehabilitation projects including the reconstruction of National Road No.3, No.33 and No.48 will economically support the South-western region, particularly the Dragon’s Head of Sihanouk Ville. At the same time, these roads will speed up the development of the 400km long coastal areas, mangrove forest, Bokor mountain ranges and Kam Chay mountain ranges etc. In particular, these roads are like blood veins that channel the outputs of agriculture, agro-industry, vegetable and fruit farms to the National Road No.4 and link with the processing zone of Sihanouk Special Economic Zone. Furthermore, road segments in the south-west area are part of the Asian AH123 Highway of the South Economic Sub-Corridor which starts at Cham Yeam, Koh Kong, Sre Ambel, Veal Renh, Kampot, Kampong Trach and Lork.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I strongly maintain my current position, continue the willingness and give my full support to push the rehabilitation and reconstruction of physical infrastructure, the priority policy, which I estimated that it will take at least 10 to 15 years to catch up with other countries in the region. The MOPWT must continue to discuss with inter-ministries to put the finalized Master Plan of Road Network 2020 forward to the Council of Ministers for examination and approval. The strategic Master Plan for 2006-2020 includes:
1 – The Backbone development strategy for multi-pole growth which aims at the development of major economic poles in the country, including Phnom Penh, Sihanouk Ville, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham and Steung Treng, hence, to push the potential poles to grow simultaneously by widening the National Roads No.1, No.2, No.3, No.4, No.5, No.6, and the National RoadNo.7 up to 4 lanes and build more detour roads.
2 – The National Integration Strategy for rural road network development by improving two-digit roads for all seasonal use.
3 – The Development Strategy for international border-crossing corridors to expand trade and transport with neighboring countries as well as for the development of industrial sector and job creation through upgrading the role of one-digit, two-digit national roads and the improvement of two-digit national roads at the border areas, and the improvement of roads to link with railway, water routes, and distribution centers.
4 – The Strategy to improve rural economy to contribute to promoting efficiency of industrial zones, investment capital and employment growth through transforming the two-digit national roads into potential areas for agriculture, industry and tourism.
5 – The Regional Integration Strategy to alleviate poverty and narrow the income gap, for the purpose of promoting basic needs (employment, education, safety and welfare) through the improvement of the three-digit and rural roads (north-east and the diamond triangle region).
At the same time, with regards to the railway rehabilitation project, I would like to request the MOPWT to make all efforts to finalize the discussion with Toll Holdings Limited in order to quickly sign the commercial railway concession agreement for the successful operation of the Cambodia Railway improvement plan.
Along with the rehabilitation and development of road network accomplished by the Royal Government, we have observed that the traffic flows have increased significantly. The number of registered vehicles increased from 38,184 in 2004 to 154,389 in 2007, an increase of 304%. As of 2007, registered vehicles include 671,000 motorbikes and 197,800 cars.
Indeed, the substantial increase of all kinds of vehicle requires quick and transparent provision of related public services. In this sense, the Royal Government has given some recommendations to the MOPWT to delegate the registration process of vehicles and issuance of driver licenses to provincial/municipal office of public work and transport last year. In the short term, problems will surely occur during this delegation and the MOPWT must continue to provide necessary advices. However, the late issuance of driver or car licenses, in some case, up to 3 or 6 months, is unacceptable. The MOPWT must hold a meeting with related institutions to address this issue immediately in order to improve the provision of public services to the people which is a part of public administration reform.
Along with the significant increase of vehicles on public roads, accidents remain a serious concern for the government. The number of road accidents increased from 4,250 cases in 2004 to 9,450 cases in 2007, a rise of 136%, causing an average of 3.7 deaths per day in 2006 and 4.22 in 2007, in particular, during the first 3 months of 2008, the average rate of death related to accidents amounts to 4.67 per day. According to the research of our competent officials, 94% of road accidents is caused by humans, 3% by vehicles, 1% by roads, and 2% by other factors respectively.
Traffic accident is the most complicated issues because it relates to the human factor, moral education on the public roads of Cambodian society. Along with the rising government budget allocation from one year to another, we observed that the national and provincial roads have been timely renovated with a more fruitful result than previous years. Yet, the additional attention should be paid to the overloaded transportation, which can quickly destroy the bridges and roads.
Regarding the traffic accidents and excessive transport I would like to offer a number of recommendations to the MOPWT and other relevant institutions as follows:
1. Continue to cooperate with the development partners and educate the people to be more aware of the on-land traffic law and the consequences of overloading transportation.
2. The MOPWT has to cooperate with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in order to integrate the education program of on-land traffic law awareness into the national education curriculum.
3. Continue to educate those people who have violated the law and in the mean time put more restrictions on those drivers, who have been fully aware of the traffic law and sub-decree, but still continue to violate the law.
4. The MOPWT must cooperate with the Ministry of Interior and local authority to organize more seminars and workshops regarding on-land traffic law and the sub-decree on the limitation of the maximum weight to be carried by the on-land transport vehicles on the national road network of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
5. The Ministry has to cooperate with the development partners in order to seek financial support to put up traffic signs everywhere possible along the national roads so that the incidental traffic accidents could be avoided.
6. The Ministry has to cooperate with the local and competent authorities in an attempt to put more restriction on those transportation companies and drivers who have overloaded their vehicles to be committed to maintaining the state-owned roads and bridges. Even if we have 99% of the vehicles drivers respect the law if only 1% of them violate the law then the damage of the state-owned property still exists. For instance, last week there was an overloaded truck carrying logs causing the collapse of the Sre Pok Bridge in Steung Treng province, which should not be repeated or tolerated anymore.
7. The MOPWT as well as the relevant institutions have to take measures by canceling the commercial license to any companies that has been fined twice for overloading their transports.
In general, the problems of traffic safety, the use of falsified plate number and illegal plate number, the control over the overloaded vehicles and over-speeding, sloppy and over-loading transportation, and drunk-driving, still remain a problem. I am pretty sure that I have raised these problems several times before and once again, I would like the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, the Ministry of Interior and other relevant competent authorities to take strict and firm measures to prevent or eliminate anarchic problems mentioned above.
On behalf of the Royal Government and on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate the fruitful success from implementing the work on the reconstruction, development, and maintenance of transport infrastructures during the whole year of 2007 and the bright outcome of this stock-taking conference. Through the leadership of the Ministry and the other units under the umbrella of the Ministry, I would like to express my sincere thanks and deep affections to all government officials and civil servants of the MOWT either in Phnom Pen, Provinces or Cities across the country.
Before ending, I would like to wish Your Excellencies, Louk Chum Teav, ladies and gentlemen and all participants 5 Gems of Buddhist Blessing: longevity, nobility, health, strength and wisdom.
May I now declare the closing of the 2007 Stock-Taking Conference and the Direction Setting for 2008 of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.