Delayed underwater cable project resurfaces

Internet provider Ezecom said it would help build the Kingdom’s first undersea communications cable, a long-delayed project that was originally announced in 2013 and slated for completion at the end of last year.

The construction of the Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand cable will “bring faster, more affordable broadband to the people of Cambodia and connect the country to the rest of the world like never before”, a company statement released yesterday reads.

The contract is to be signed through Ezecom-owned group Telcotech with Telkom Malaysia and Thailand’s Symphony Communication on Monday.

Ezecom CEO Paul Blanche-Horgan said that the delay in constructing the cable was due to negotiations with other companies, along with obtaining permission to build landing stations to accommodate the cable.

“It just takes time,” he said.

According to Blanche-Horgan, once the contract is signed on Monday, the cable will be finished in about 16 months.

“They’ll start making the cable and start building quite soon.”

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Despite high quality local production, customers prefer imported roof tiles

While Boreys, residential developments and commercial facilities continue to increase, so has the demand for roof tiles as the industry diversifies and local production increases, local manufacturers and distributors said. The increase in both the demand for local and imported building materials is just one indicator that illustrates how the construction sector in Cambodia has remarkably recovered after the global financial crises in 2008.

Hout Chea, director of Hout Chea Construction Material Supply Company, said that overall roof tile demand saw an increase of 50 per cent in the first quarter of 2015 when compared with the same period last year.

Hout deliniated his consumers as such: “We have 30 per cent of our clients buying tiles to use for their homes and 40 per cent are Borey owners. The other 30 per cent are condo and apartment owners.”

Hout’s company specializes in importing high quality roof tiles made in Malaysia, which feauture modern glazed clay and cement tiles, he explained. He added that the imported products are comparable in price to locally manufactured products since quality production standards have raised. But with production levels by local manufactures increasing, Hout explained how there has been a narrowing of the market.

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Trade talks aim to boost quota

A Chinese trade delegation due to arrive in Cambodia next week has added to the hopes that the Kingdom’s rice export quota to China will be drastically raised.

The three-day visit, which will be led by China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Yan, begins on Monday and will discuss strengthening trade ties with Cambodia, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

“This time, the visit will discuss the possibility of expanding trade cooperation between Cambodia and China. A rice deal and the possibility of exporting more agricultural products from Cambodia to China will also be on the agenda,” said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Ken Ratha.

Cambodian Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol sent a letter to Gao Yan in April seeking to double Cambodia’s rice export quota to 200,000 tonnes for the period between May 2015 and April 2016.

“It is expected that there will be detailed discussion of Cambodia’s request to double the rice quota to China to 200,000 tonnes,” Ratha said, adding, however, that no agreement or memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed.

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Access to finance limits export potential for millers

Cambodian rice exports have grown year-on-year since 2009 but have fallen well short of reaching the government’s 1 million tonne annual target, with experts saying that limited access to finance, warehousing and logistical support are holding back the potential of rice millers.

According to the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2015, published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), despite the 3 million tonnes of paddy available for processing in Cambodia, it will not reach the 1 million tonnes export mark in 2015 and will need to invest in scaling up milling capacity and irrigation facilities.

David Van, adviser to the Cambodia Rice Federation, said that while government figures for paddy production are probably inflated, the issue wasn’t the sector’s capacity to mill this paddy, but rather access to finance.

“Big impediment is not in milling capacity but in working capital of millers and exporters to buy paddy and compete with mainly Vietnamese brokers with deep pockets and plenty of cash provided by the Vietnamese government,” Van said.

The problem stems from millers and exporters’ ability to get finance, Van said, with the government and donor partners failing to address the issue for years, though there was some assistance from the private sector.

“Now we’re seeing more commercial banks, like ANZ Royal and Acleda, focusing on establishing some ‘paddy banks’, trying to team up with millers using a warehousing receipt concept – to use paddy as collateral,” Van added.

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Nearly all civil servants paid by direct deposit: Treasury

Almost all of the government’s employees and more than 76 per cent of the National Armed Forces receive their salaries directly deposited to a bank account, doing away with the old system of handing over cash to public workers.

According to the General Department of National Treasury, 99.45 per cent of government employees, or 400,000 people, receive salaries in their bank accounts.

The reform measure was initiated in December 2013, when the Ministry of Economy and Finance signed a memorandum of understanding with Acleda and Canadia banks and mobile payment service provider Wing (Cambodia).

After signing the MoU in 2013, the project was implemented in a phased manner last year, and will continue until it covers all of the armed forces employees as well.

Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron confirmed yesterday that all ministerial staff received their monthly salaries directly in a bank account, adding that they were working on implementing the same for bonuses and overtime payments.

“We have implemented this since April last year and it has been running smoothly. Presently, 117, 000 staff members of the ministry are getting their salary via bank accounts,” he said.

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Rural focus for inclusiveness

The Cambodian economy is expected to grow by 7.3 per cent in 2015 and 2016 but will need to concentrate on development in the rural areas in order to ensure inclusive growth, according to a UN report released yesterday.

The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2015, published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), said that construction and tourism will be the main drivers of the economy, whereas the garment sector, a traditional growth engine, will see competitiveness eroded over the next two years due to a rising wages.

“Growth in Cambodia has been an inclusive growth. It has been with structural transformation – people move from very low productive jobs usually in agriculture to more productive jobs in services, industry and manufacturing,” Clovis Freire, economic affairs officer at the Macroeconomic Policy and Development Division of UNESCAP, said at the release of the report in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Cambodia currently sits at about 0.6 on ESCAP’s social development index, which uses measures like education levels and life expectancy to determine a country’s social development, where 0 indicates no development and 1 indicates perfect development. However, if inequality is taken into account, then Cambodia has the potential to lose more than 25 per cent from that score, the ESCAP
report states.

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Public housing construction may begin in 2017 or 2018

The government is preparing to develop a policy for constructing public housing for low-income and lower middle-income earners in Cambodia. Although still in the capacity-building stage, the plan, if enacted, could ease the burden for struggling families as property prices have steadily increased in stride with the continued urbanization of Cambodia.

Dr. Peng Hong Socheat Khemro, general director of Ministry’s Housing Department for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, is responsible for designing and possibly implementing a public housing policy. The government official spoke with Post Property to discuss the current state of affairs.

How far along is the government’s public housing policy?
Since the government has been [considering] implementing a public housing policy, a permanent mechanism could be created within the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. The Housing Department is currently supported by three sub-departments, and we are currently aiding those three departments by creating four more offices in order to have enough human resources to work on this project.

At the same time that offices are being created in the capital, we are also branching out into the provinces, because they are also participating

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Sona Seng delivers the blueprint for the next generation of female engineers

For as long as she can remember, Seng Sona has always had a passion for drafting blueprints and designing building- a passion that has grown into a career.

“When I was young, I liked mathematics, especially mathematical formulas and logistics. I was really interested in blueprints, especially the drafting and design, so I chose to pursue a career in engineering,” she said.

Throughout her education, Sona recalls how she was introduced to a lot of smart students and mentors who pushed her to succeed while she was a student at Wat Koh primary and secondary school. After fulfilling her secondary education, she had the chance to study abroad at the Technical University of Denmark, where she eventually received a civil engineering degree. While studying, she also gained a lot of valuable work experience.

“When I was studying abroad, I also interned for an engineering consulting company. At that time, it became clear that I really liked the subject I had chosen,” she said.

After she graduated, she returned to Cambodia keen to enter the burgeoning construction sector where she saw a lack of qualified Cambodians.

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Too coarse, too far: sand ban takes toll on quality and price

Sand dredging licenses have been greatly limited as the Ministry of Mines and Energy address the environmental impact of unregulated dredging. In consequence, sand prices have risen as the associated transportation costs take their toll, according to developers and producers of construction materials.

While the Ministry of Mines and Energy conducts the impact study to assess the risk dredging has on riverbanks and water flow, there has been an obvious spike in prices for sand and mixed cemenet, said the general manager of Borey River Town, Teng Rithy. According to him sand prices have increased 10 to 20 per cent since the restriction has taken affect.

Phnom Penh Port, the only company currently holding sand dredging licenses for a site in Peam Ror area in Prey Veng province, with a second site in Rokar Koung, Kandal province, announced that the rise in prices is the result of two factors: a dip in sand quality and an increase in transportation costs.

Ann Sopanha, manager of CPAC Cambodia—a company that produces mixed cement—said that mixed cement has increased from $2 to $3 per cubic meter over the last three or four months, adding up to an overall increase of 50 per cent.

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What will be the future of Phnom Penh’s malls?

As the number of malls increases in Phnom Penh, local malls may lose business to the international standards of mega malls, real estate experts say. The opening of Japanese Aeon mall in June 2014 was the first to raise the bar, and seems to mark only the beginning of a fast-forward shift of the capital’s shopping habits. This change in consumerism could be a problem for smaller shopping destinations as more international players enter the field.

A report of Bonna Realty Group from the first quarter of 2015 predicts the number of malls will rise from 14 to 25 by the end of 2018. This translates into an increase from 360,000 square meters to 600,000 square meters.

Seng Bonna, director of Bonna Realty Group, stated that as of now only Aeon Mall had international standards and the upcoming opening of Parkson along Russian Boulevard (in 2016) or the Phnom Penh International Airport Mall (in 2018), did not impose an immediate threat to malls with lower standards. He added that this was bound to change, however, if the number of international malls further increased as people with middle incomes could afford to spend more time in upscale locations.  Continue reading