Hun Sen Secures $500 M Loan In China Visit

Prime Minister Hun Sen re­turned from his visit to China Sat­urday with a promise of more than $500 million in Chinese government loans to pay for infrastructure projects, Foreign Affairs Min­ister Hor Namhong said during a televised press conference.

Speaking at Phnom Penh Inter­national Airport on Saturday, Mr Namhong said that the Prime Minister had met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and received approval of loans for projects including road improvements and the construction of a $65 million dam in Pursat province.

The foreign minister said that the projects will be implemented in two phases, beginning with road construction: a $95 million, 76-km road from Battambang pro­vince’s Thma Koul district to the Thai border, a $73 million road in Pailin province, and the widening of 40 kilometers of National Road 6 for $37 million. The first phase will also include $30 million in improvements at the Phnom Penh port, and $42 million for improvements of water resour­ces in Kampot province, he said.

In the second phase, the Chinese loans will build the Pursat dam, as well as a $42 million bridge in Takhmau town, $41 million in Kampot province road construction, $36 million to repair National Road 5 between Phnom Penh and the Prek Kdam bridge, and $50 million for electricity networks in rural areas, Mr Namhong said.

“Construction projects like roads and dams, these are the two sectors that support the nation’s economic development and support people’s living standards,” Mr Namhong said.

The foreign minister added that the new loans would complement about $260 million in loans promised by China in 2008. That money will cover an additional five infrastructure projects, including $30 million to build a twin bridge to Phnom Penh’s Japanese-Cambodian Friendship Bridge.

He also said that China has pledged about $15 million in aid, which Mr Hun Sen will direct to Typhoon Ketsana recovery efforts.

The prime minister left for China on Thursday, and the two premiers met on the sidelines of a trade fair in Sichuan province.

Contacted on Sunday, Chinese Embassy Second Secretary Qian Hai said that he had no details about the financial commitments made during Mr Hun Sen’s visit to China.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that he had reservations about the latest loans from China.

“As a poor country, we need the money to develop our country, both financial assistance, grants and borrowing, but we need to consider three things,” he said.

“First, whether we can pay back the loan or not. Second, whether we use the loan effectively, efficiently or not. And thirdly, we have to curb corruption,” he said.

That third consideration should be the biggest concern, Mr Sovann said. “The government shows less willingness to curb corruption. Where is the anti-corruption law?”

He added that the government must carefully consider how it will repay the loans to China, pointing out that Cambodia has not yet paid back $100 million borrowed from the US under the Lon Nol regime.

“We must learn from the experiences of the past. We have to carefully use the loans and be able to pay them back,” Mr Sovann said. “If we do not use it properly, the burden will fall on the younger generation.”

China’s growing influence in Cambodia was debated during a Friday meeting of the National Assembly where lawmakers were asked to pass two comprehensive trade agreements with South Korea and China.

While the trade pact with South Korea took just 30 minutes to pass, questions by the opposition SRP over the behavior of Chinese companies in Cambodia, and whether China received more favorable trade terms than other countries in Cambodia, led to a three-hour long discussion.


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