The Transportation Ministry this week inked a $644,000 deal with a Chinese firm for a master plan to lay out Cambodia’s needs for new roads over the next several years.
Ministry Secretary of State Lim Sidenine signed the deal on Tuesday with Wang Zhen Min, technical team leader for the Henan Provincial Communications, Planning, Survey and Design Institute, the Chinese firm that will conduct the study at Beijing’s expense.
“The project will lead to a better road system and help develop the economy by connecting us with neighboring countries,” Mr. Sidenine said at the signing ceremony.
The minister said that China had already built 1,576 km of roads in Cambodia and was in the process of building 854 km more, at a total cost of $1.64 billion.
Prime Minister Hun Sen often praises China for its no-strings-attached development aid to Cambodia, though observers say Beijing cashes in by getting Phnom Penh to back its foreign policies, such as those concerning China’s Uighur minority and the South China Sea.
In an interview Thursday, Mr. Sidenine said the study would take about a year, and help the ministry lay out Cambodia’s road needs in stages.
“The goal is so that we know in the short term, long term, medium term how much we need to invest in the road infrastructure,” he said.
The secretary of state said he did not know how many years into the future the study aimed to look, however.
Mr. Sidenine said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the foreign aid arm of the Japanese government, had prepared a similar master plan for the country in 2009 or 2010. But he said the plan was never approved and that he did not know why. He said he also did not know whether JICA’s plan was still under consideration, or how it might be affected by the new plan being paid for by China.
JICA did not reply to a request for comment. A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy said he was unaware of the new study.