The government has sold the Banteay Meanchey provincial health department building to a private investor for $180,000, which will be put towards the construction of a new building, an official said Wednesday.
Chhum Sovanarith, director of the provincial health department, said that $80,000 from the Sept 27 sale of the property in Serei Saophoan district has already been used to purchase a half-hectare of land 4 km away.
The remaining $100,000, however, will not be enough to cover the construction costs of the new health department building, he said, adding that he was not sure how much the planned four-story structure will cost to build.
“We are discussing [how much money is needed] with the Ministry of Finance officials,” he said, adding that he believed the price paid for the former department and land was fair.
Chhum Sovanarith declined to name the private investor who bought the old building.
Banteay Meanchey Governor Orn Sum said Wednesday that he was unaware of the sale, but added that the current health department building was too old to work in.
According to a Sept 18 government sub-decree published in the latest Royal Gazette, permission had been granted to swap the health department property. The same decree also listed the Kompong Chhnang provincial culture and finance department buildings as eligible for swaps with investors.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay on Wednesday criticized the sale of the health department building in Banteay Meanchey, saying that the government always loses money from land swaps and that the new buildings are often worse than the original.
“It’s a lot of losses,” he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith defended land swaps, saying that they provide the government with newer buildings.
“With the new buildings we can work for 80 to 100 years more,” he said.