New Temporary Work Program Hoped To Boost Poorer Areas

The government and the Asian Development Bank have started a $16 million cash-for-work program in an effort to create more than 20,000 temporary jobs in seven provinces around the Tonle Sap lake, officials said Sunday.

Vong Sandap, deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance, said the program would hire workers in 200 communes to improve road and irrigation infrastructure in proj­ects running within a two-year period.

“We have already started the program in July,” Mr Sandap said, ad­ding the program was underway in Kompong Chhnang and Ban­teay Meanchey province and would also start in Pursat, Battam­bang, Siem Reap, Kompong Thom and Oddar Meanchey province.

Mr Sandap said the program aimed to ease the impact of the economic crisis by creating employment in poor areas—targeting people who are dependent on fishing and small-scale farmers with limited rice stocks—as well as improving rural infrastructure, such as small roads and irrigation reservoirs.

The program is the second phase of the ADB’s $36 million Em­er­gency Food Assistance project and is funded through $30 million in ABD grants and loans, with the gov­ernment contributing $6 mil­lion, said Mr Sandap, who is also na­tional director for the ADB project.

In the first phase of the project, started in October last year, the ADB funded rice distributions to 68,000 families. The distribution was, however, quickly followed by protests and complaints by hundreds of villagers in numerous provinces over their exclusion from beneficiaries’ lists, which had been compiled by local village chiefs. Protestors claimed that the real poor were being passed over, while those connected to local officials were given the free rice.

ADB spokesman Kim Chanta said by telephone that the second phase will run more smoothly.

“Last year, due to the pace of the selection, we had some minor prob­lems,” he said by telephone. “With this program we have more time and a proper [selection] mechanism. This year, these problems can hopefully be avoided,” Mr Chanta said.

The Ministry of Rural Develop­ment and the Ministry of Water Resources will work with local commune councils and NGOs to set up project committees, and these committees would select beneficiaries for the cash-for-work program, he explained.

Mr Chanta added the ADB had de­cided to change its plans for food-for-work programs to cash payments for work after food prices started to drop during the last year.

Banteay Meanchey province Ca­binet Chief Om Chanta, who also func­tions as a provincial administrative officer for the project, said trials for the cash-for-works program had started there Friday with the renov­ation of a 1.5-km stretch of road in Ta Lom commune, Mongkol Borei district.

“This program gives people the opportunity to earn a living during this difficult time. It will also support the local infrastructure,” he said.

“If this [trial] project is successful we will start in O’Beichoan commune, O’Chrou district,” Mr Chan­ta said, adding this would then entail the improvement of local irrigation systems.

“The ADB had planned to give 3 to 5 kg of rice per cubic meter of renovated road, but as the workers prefer cash, they asked the payment to be changed from rice to cash,” he added.


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