… I am very happy to join all of you once again to lay the cornerstones for the construction of the Bridge of Prek Chrey crossing the Prek Thnaot canal as well as the connection of road between Phnom Penh and the province of Kandal at the NR 2. We are now at the border between Phnom Penh and Kandal province. Before Phnom Penh has an ambition to expand its boundary to this area and some of the ideas for expansion have come from me as well.
As of now the idea of annexing Kandal Stoeung and Angsnuol districts to Phnom Penh has yet to realize and the reason is because Phnom Penh will shortly be expanded through to Kandal province. As far as this place is concerned, it is no longer a quiet place because our population in general has gone from four to 14 million. Day after day the number of population increases while the capital suffers from the pressure of influx of population from all provinces. Economic and trade activities are on the increase as well. Phnom Penh faces more problems in its urban development while more need to be done to relieve the problem of traffic congestion.
As we are seeking more fund to build infrastructure throughout the country, our people may have known about the Royal Government’s commitments and efforts in building roads here and there – connecting our roads to Thai and Vietnam borders while sparing no efforts in mobilizing fund to improve intra-infrastructures. We have accumulated almost sufficient fund to cover the cost of building all needed roads – NR 8, NR 78 and NR 76 – and yet the NR 68.
As far as efforts for the improvement of traffic in the capital of Phnom Penh is concerned in early 2003 and 2004 I have come with Governor of Phnom Penh HE Kep Chu Tema and Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology HE Lim Kean Hor to observe the situation here and we have come to a conclusion that this part of the city has to be connected to the NR 2. But because of limited size of budget we have not fulfilled this project yet. On another front Cambodia has a large rural area compared to a small size of urbanization. The city’s vicinity to every direction is indeed rural.
Facing with increase population and industrialization as well as agricultural sector or tourism, a study needs to be done as to which part of the capital should be enlarged? Our objective has been to include Arey Khsatr, Lovea Em, Khsach Kandal into the city as well. Well the construction of the Prek Chrey Bridge would indeed be a benefit for those who pass this road to and from Phnom Penh from the village of Prek Chrey but also the provinces of Kandal, Takeo, Kampot and Keb City.
Building this bridge would give us benefit not only from road and bridge itself but also, as I compare a shot that kills five birds or more. The road provides better means for transportation, creates jobs, and jack up the land price (from ten US dollars per hectare to between 15 and 25 US dollars per hectare) as it will develop into an industrial zone.
Under Pol Pot they said that if they won they would provide everyone a job and it did happen where from old to young no one was free from their labor. They abolish the gap between the rich and the poor by demolishing the rich to make them equally poor. It is absurd that we now hear again some people who campaign with similar argument. We accept that there is still a gap between urban and rural areas, though we have achieved a growth that brings down the poverty rate of 100% to 34%, and the latter’s living condition is better improving.
Average distribution of income per capita is marked at 500 US dollars, whereas those in Phnom Penh would earn 800 US dollars and probably in some rural areas only 250 US dollars. The average income per capita for the whole country has been marked by the Ministry of Finance and Economy as over 500 US dollars, while the Institute of Statistics published an evaluation of 519 US dollars, which is a small discrepancy between the two.
What are we to do in this situation? Are we to apply the Pol Pot’s method of re-distribution by confiscating from the rich to give to the poor? I warn you not to think of breaking a big house to build a small one. Even in rich country like the US, where they also have poor people, they never take from the rich to give to the poor. They promise to provide jobs to the poor but when companies makes at loss they always downsize their laborers, take for instance Boeing Company.
What we should do is to intensify investment and ensure equitable redistribution of the economic growth or in other words to provide what is needed in the rural area so that it could make progress. Roads, bridges, water canals, schools, hospitals are important factors for providing help to the poor. As for Cambodia there are more people than jobs created and what are we to do? Are we to sit in office? Everyone has to have an obligation. Take for instance Crown Prince Harry of Great Britain has a military obligation too and he may decide to go to Iraq.
Creation of jobs and functions are two important and relevant elements. Last week the Cabinet convened a meeting on social security fund under the Labor Law. Government officials, the armed forces retire and they get their retirement pensions. We are now in the process to make our workers assured that when they stopped working they also are covered by a pension scheme. And we have to start from social security fund following by health security fund and then pension.
Once again when we have this road and bridge built we solve not only problem of traffic but also other areas of activities that impact on life. People could improve their vendor restaurants etc. I wish to praise the Municipality of Phnom Penh and the Engineering Department of the Ministry of National Defense for carefully and quietly conducting the study on this road and bridge construction.
As we know more tourists come to Choeung Ek more than they go to Wat Phnom. Choeung Ek’s genocidal expo is not just for tourist to see but a proof of genocide and it should serve as legal evidence for the trial of Khmer Rouge regime. We’d filmed and took photo of the scene of skulls and transmitted to outside world, and in order to defend those factions that occupied the Cambodian seat at the United Nations, it is said that those skulls were artificial. The person who said so is still alive. Without these evidences it would be difficult for the trial process of the Khmer Rouge.
This year we may be able to cross here provisionally and we should rehabilitate a small bridge on that side and make it bigger too. I am really happy that we are able to serve our people. Along with ensuring quality and fulfilling all recommendations, I would recommend a re-evaluation of the project cost as it was discussed when fuel cost was high. It has gone down now. As far as this development is concerned some politicians have spread false information that the price of fuel has gone down thanks to demand of so and so head of political party.
It is an absurd remark. The Royal Government subsidize about 9 million US dollars a month when the price of fuel had gone up from 25 US$ or 30 US$ to over 60 US dollars per barrel. When the price of fuel went down I asked the Minister of Finance and Economy to tell the fuel companies to lower the price. However, some companies make their stock of three month extra and they bought their supply at a high price. Therefore forcing them to lower the price suddenly is uneconomical for them. Price of fuel in the US, France and those countries producing fuel like Indonesia is also high.
I would search for companies who in the previous electoral campaign said that they would bring the price of fuel down to 1700 Riel per litter (4000 Riel to 1 US$) and another party that competed with a better price of 1500 Riel per litter if they win the elections. I think it is a contradiction to the world economic trend and they should try not to lie or to make empty promises. I am glad that today we have the presence of leaders of Funcinpec’s President HE Keo Put Reasmey, General Secretary HE Nhek Bun Chhay as well and this is good for our country./.