$2.5 Billion Earmarked for Infrastructure Projects Nationwide

The Council of Ministers has approved $2.49 billion in spending for the Ministry of Planning, which will go toward 552 development projects nationwide over the next three years.

According to a Friday statement from the Council of Ministers, the “public investment” projects, which include roads, bridges, schools, irrigation systems and hydroelectricity dams, will be implemented from 2009 to 2011 and will be funded by the government and international donors.

So far, the government has committed to contributing $417 million, while donors have agreed to contribute $985 million in grants and loans, according to the statement, which added that the remaining $1.09 billion has not yet been secured.

Ministry of Planning Secretary of State Ou Orhat said by telephone Monday that the group of projects are part of the national development planning strategy for 2006 to 2010, which was approved by the National Assembly with the aim of increasing public and private foreign investment in rural areas and small and medium-sized enterprises.

“We want to build roads for communes to connect rural areas to the urban areas,” he said. “We want to build irrigation systems to sluice water into the rice fields to make sure that the rice is cultivated two to three times yearly.”

Ou Orhat said he is not concerned that nearly half the funding for the projects has not been secured.

“I don’t think it will be difficult,” he said.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said by telephone that he supports development but is skeptical about the process the Ministry of Planning used to come up with the projects and concerned that the money won’t reach its intended destination.

“Sometimes the amount of projects doesn’t reflect reality,” he said.

“When it comes to implementation, the government hardly ever follows up. No one ever studies or is provided with a feedback report on how to implement the programs or why the projects are useful,” he added.

Ou Orhat said later by telephone that Son Chhay is misinformed about how the national development planning strategy works and claimed that the contributing donors will manage their own projects.

The 2006 to 2010 planning strategy, which was approved by the National Assembly in May 2006, predicts that the nation’s unemployment rate would dwindle to less than 4 percent by the end of the decade and that the number of those living below the poverty line will fall to 25 percent of the population from the current estimated level of about 32 percent.

(Additional reporting by James Welsh)

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