by Mao Pengfei, Nguon Sovan
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- China is a major partner for Cambodia in the development of infrastructure, which is a key element to boost economic growth and to reduce poverty, Cambodian officials said.
Speaking to Xinhua ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the country, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said that infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railways, ports, airports is really necessary for Cambodia's socio-economic development and that China has played a leading role in supporting infrastructure development in the kingdom.
"Cooperation between Cambodia and China in infrastructure sector is excellent, as most of the national roads in Cambodia have been built under concessional loans and grant aid from China," he said.
"More than 2,000 km of roads, seven large bridges, and a new container terminal of the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port have been constructed under China's aid," Chanthol said, adding that the Southeast Asian country needs around 500 million U.S. dollars a year for transport infrastructure development.
According to the minister, besides granting financial assistance, China has also provided technical assistance and helped train Cambodian transport officials.
Meanwhile, Chanthol revealed that China would invest in a new international airport project and a 190-km long expressway project from Phnom Penh to the southwestern coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.
He said the BOT (build-operate-transfer) concessional agreements for the projects would be signed soon between the Cambodian government and Chinese companies.
"The new airport is very important to deal with the rising number of tourists to the Angkor world heritage site," he said.
"For the Phnom Penh-Preah Sihanouk expressway project, it will be a very important way for economic development because it connects Phnom Penh economic pole and Preah Sihanouk economic pole," Chanthol said. "The two big economic poles must link with each other by an expressway in order to further boost economic growth."
Hei Bavy, director-general of the state-owned Phnom Penh Autonomous Port (PPAP), said that China is the largest aid provider to Cambodia for infrastructure development and that the listed PPAP has greatly benefited from China's assistance.
He said the country's largest freshwater port had built a new container terminal under the concessional loan of 28.2 million U.S. dollars from the Chinese government and the terminal was inaugurated in January 2013.
"With the China-funded terminal, the port has tripled its container loading capacity to 150,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs (standard-sized containers), a year," he told Xinhua.
According to Bavy, the port had received up to 180,000 cargo containers in 2017, about 20 percent higher than the expectation.
"This clearly reflects that China's financial aid to the port is very important to handle the growing flow of goods," he said.
Since 2016, the PPAP has been expanding its container terminal in the second phase to double its capacity to 300,000 TEUs, he said, adding that the 20-million-U.S. dollar project will be completed in 2018.
He added that the second phase project is being built under the port's own capital and a portion of financial contribution from the Cambodian government.
Bavy said the port has planned to seek China's aid to expand the port's capacity from 300,000 TEUs to 500,000 TEUs in the third phase from 2020 to 2022.
Commenting on the Belt and Road Initiative, which was proposed by China in 2013, he said the initiative would greatly benefit all participating countries, especially in transport infrastructure development.
"Better transport infrastructure will reduce logistic cost, so when this initiative comes to fruition, people will have goods in a cheaper price," he said.