China has pledged about $12.4 million in loans and grants to help pay for the new eight-story Council of Ministers building, officials said Wednesday.
Half the money will be given as an interest-free loan while the other half will be in the form of a grant, said Eang Sophalleth, an aide to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The pledge was made in Phnom Penh Monday at a meeting between Hun Sen and Li Jinzhang, an assistant to China’s minister of foreign affairs, Eang Sophalleth said.
The new Council of Ministers building is estimated to cost about $49 million and work has already started behind the present building, though the government is currently involved in a land dispute with several families that live nearby.
Construction is expected to be finished by 2008.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the current building does not have enough space and some departments and staff are working in space borrowed from other ministries and, in at least one case, out of a former hotel.
Senate Cabinet Chief Um Sarith said China is also expected to renovate the Senate building. A Chinese delegation finished studying the Senate building about three months ago, Um Sarith said, but there has been no word on when renovations will begin.
“We hope they will come soon,” he said.
Senator Thach Setha said he was afraid of working in the building because his office wall is fragile.
“I am very worried it could collapse,” he said.
Several officials at the Chinese Embassy refused to comment, referring questions to the government.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay was skeptical that a new Council of Ministers building is needed, saying the present building could be used for another 10 years.
“It is not good for Cambodia to borrow money when our economic situation is not good,” Son Chhay said.
Son Chhay also alleged that the cost of the new Council of Ministers’ building had been inflated to allow for money to be skimmed off the top.