Japan, China top most expensive expat postings in Asia

Thu, 23 January 2014

8_ShinjukuTokyo is still Asia’s most expensive city for expat postings, but it is being losing ground to smoggy Beijing, according to the results of a survey released recently by global employment solutions provider ECA International.

Tokyo and Beijing, which were globally ranked 10th and 15th, respectively, were followed by Nagasaki, Shanghai and Yokohama to round out the top five most expensive expat postings in Asia.

Things could be drastically different in the next survey, however, as economic conditions in Japan and China look likely to change this year.

“Although the Chinese government has allowed the renminbi to appreciate steadily against the US dollar and food and oil prices in China have been rising, Beijing’s jump up the ranking is largely due to Japanese locations becoming so much cheaper because of the weaker yen,” said Lee Quane, Asia regional director for ECA International.

“Nevertheless, living costs in Chinese locations have increased in recent years, making China a more expensive location than some of its neighbours for companies looking to set up operations in the region.”

The global list was topped by the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, followed by Angola’s capital Luanda, the Norwegian capital Oslo, South Sudan’s capital Juba and Stavanger, another Norwegian city.

More locally, the Southeast Asian region is led by Singapore, which ranks ninth in Asia and 30th globally. The survey ranked Phnom Penh 34th in Asia and 215th worldwide. Other Southeast Asian cities that came in ahead of Phnom Penh include Bangkok (26th), Yangon (31st) and Chiang Mai (32nd). Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were close behind Phnom Penh at 36th and 37th, respectively.

ECA International’s cost of living indices are calculated based on surveys carried out each year in March and September focusing on a basket of common goods and services. The data released last month refers to year-on-year movements between ECA’s September 2012 and 2013 surveys.

The data is used by ECA clients to calculate cost of living allowances for assignees. The survey covers a basket of food, drink and tobacco items, as well as services, electrical goods, car transportation and dining out.

Certain living costs including accommodation rental, utilities expenses, car purchases and school fees are not considered in the survey. Such items can make a significant difference to expenses but are usually compensated for separately in expatriate packages.Read Original text

Ch- ch- ch- changes: I Ching Decor evolving along with Phnom Penh

Thu, 23 January 2014

4_Van-Dana,-Benita-Sharpe-and-Susan-Winchester-discuss-an-upcoming-project-at-I-Ching-DecorAs the property market in Phnom Penh continues to become more diverse and sophisticated, demand for high-end interior design for homes, businesses and offices has grown apace.

One of the first companies to address this market, I Ching Decor, has spent the past decade growing and adapting to the changing needs and conditions of the capital’s increasingly dynamic property sector.

Founded in 2003, the interior design company has evolved into a team of dedicated professionals capable of providing everything from custom furniture to full-package refurbishment. With its team of metalworkers, glassworkers, upholsterers, furniture makers and experienced handymen, I Ching offers full-spectrum interior solutions for a wide range of clients. As general manager Benita Sharpe puts it: “The only thing we don’t do is build houses.”

I Ching fittingly takes its name from the Chinese philosophical classic of the same name, also known as the Book of Changes. Now, after years of helping clients bring change to their spaces, I Ching Decor itself is also changing.

After more than three years as I Ching’s head designer, Sharpe recently took on the general manager position and is taking the company in new directions.

In addition to the design services it has always provided its clients, I Ching is now adding a new offering to its palette: artwork, vases and other extra touches that customers previously had to sort out themselves.

Susan Winchester, manager of I Ching’s office on Sothearos Boulevard across from the Sofitel, said that the new focus on home accessories in addition to furniture grew out of necessity.

“Finding quality artwork and accessories for projects was difficult at times, especially when trying to stay within the client’s budget,” Winchester said. “You can go to places like Street 178, but most of the stores have very similar artwork.”

Through its relationship with local artists and artisans, I Ching is now able to offer affordable solutions for the extra details that complete a design or refurbishment project.

“We want to push the boundaries while keeping it affordable,” she said.

I Ching Decor is unveiling new art and accessories.

I Ching Decor is unveiling new art and accessories. Charlotte Pert

Not only has I Ching changed, but the Phnom Penh market which it serves has changed in recent years.

I Ching project manager Van Dana said that since joining the company in 2008, her clientele has evolved steadily.

“When I first started at I Ching, most of the customers were Westerners – the Cambodians that came in were usually shocked by the price,” Van said. “But over the last few years more and more Cambodians have come to us looking for new ideas.”

London native Sharpe said that she works with Van and I Ching’s team of local designers to integrate complementary elements of Cambodian and Western sensibilities to create unique designs for clients.

“We have four full-time Cambodian designers and they do a fantastic job,” she said. “There are more and more quality designers coming out of schools here.”

Today, I Ching’s clientele is roughly half Cambodian and half foreign, with around 75 per cent of design projects for residential customers and the remaining 25 per cent commercial, Sharpe said.

“We seem to be getting approached by more restaurants,” Winchester added. “Before there was not much of a need for restaurants to think about more than their menus, but now with the increased competition, more establishments are understanding the importance of design in setting your business apart from the crowd.”

As for how I Ching sets itself apart from the crowd, Winchester said that in addition to quality design services, the company prides itself in its customer service.

“We value our customers and we always want to get things right – no matter how big or small the project we try and follow up to make sure they’re satisfied.”

I Ching Decor is located at 85 Sothearos Boulevard, it can be reached at 023 220 873 or via info@ichingdecor.com. Read Original text

Risk-averse Japanese investing more in Phnom Penh condos

Thu, 23 January 2014

2_AnnaCam-CEO-Anna-Araki-(l)-and-founder-Jun-TakeguchiIn the course of a city’s development, especially a capital city, certain events serve as mile markers, raising their profile both regionally and globally.

For Phnom Penh, the change in regulations in 2010 that allowed foreign nationals to purchase condominiums above the second floor with hard strata title marked a new stage in attracting foreign investment.

Since 2010, another event has suggested that Phnom Penh’s property market has entered a new stage of development: the recent surge in Japanese investment in Phnom Penh condominiums.

Few understand the changing views of Japanese investors toward Cambodia better than the upper management of boutique real estate consultancy AnnaCam Partners, one of Phnom Penh’s top providers of real estate services to Japanese investors.

Phnom Penh-registered AnnaCam organises investment seminars in Japan for potential investors who want to learn more about the pros and cons of investing in Phnom Penh. Afterwards, groups of 10 or more investors come to the capital to personally inspect condominiums and decide whether to take the plunge and make a purchase.

AnnaCam CEO Anna Araki told the Post that Cambodia’s recent emergence on the radar of Japanese investors was based on a growing understanding of the current state of economic development in the capital.

Location, location, location: Top investment recommendation De Castle Royal.

Location, location, location: Top investment recommendation De Castle Royal. Scott Howes

“Most Japanese that come here are pleasantly surprised,” Araki said. “Before coming here, many people think the city might still have mines, but they quickly realise that Phnom Penh is already quite developed.

“They fall in love with the friendly locals, good restaurants and cafes and abundant culture.”

In the second half of 2013 AnnaCam hosted visits by dozens of investors from Japan, many of whom purchased condominiums in Phnom Penh – all at De Castle Royal in the city’s tony BKK1 district. In fact, during that time, AnnaCam was the top sales agent for properties in De Castle Royal,

which will open its doors in the second quarter of this year.

Perhaps AnnaCam’s success in selling De Castle Royal to Japanese investors should not be surprising; Araki herself has purchased condominiums in the tower.

“Japanese are very conservative investors,” Araki said. “Even if they have a lot of money to invest, they’ll only begin with small amounts. If the return on investment is satisfactory, they will invest more.”

AnnaCam founder Jun Takeguchi, whose previous professional experience includes seven years at Mizuho, Japan’s largest commercial bank, as well as consultancies KPMG and SBI, said that AnnaCam’s clients are purchasing condominiums in Phnom Penh to rent out to expatriates living in the capital. The high demand for luxury accommodation in the city centre combined with the rents that can be charged are but some of the main factors that make De Castle Royal appealing to Japanese investors.

“There is more information about Phnom Penh in Japan than ever before,” he said. “Famous Japanese companies such as Aeon, Denso and Minebea are investing here, which adds credibility in the investor’s mind. Japanese are also learning more about the economic situation in Cambodia as well as the legal system and the importance of having a hard title for a property”

Japanese media are beginning to pay more attention to condominium investment opportunities in Phnom Penh, Takeguchi said, citing recent articles about De Castle Royal in Japanese business magazines including Nikkei Money and The Economist.

AnnaCam CEO Araki said that she recommends De Castle Royal over other condominium projects in the city for several reasons.

“De Castle Royal is the first true luxury condominium development in Phnom Penh,” she said. “It has a great location and the design and construction by [Phnom Penh-based Korean developer] Nuri D&C is of the highest quality. On top of that, the high occupancy rates in other apartment buildings in the area make investors confident that they’ll be able to get high rents for their condos.”

Given the quickly dwindling number of unsold units at De Castle Royal, AnnaCam will soon have more time to focus on its longer-term goals.

“We want to serve as an investment bridge between Japan and Cambodia,” Araki said. “Not only for the benefit of Japanese investors, but also for the development of Cambodia.”Read Original text

Housing loans up in 2013, growth expected to continue in ’14

Thu, 16 January 2014

8_Cash-brickLast year across Cambodia’s cities, more and more people decided to take the plunge and invest in housing.

This should be obvious to anyone who lived in Cambodia last year. The sounds of construction or renovation were more noticeable than before in cities across the Kingdom.

Data from Cambodia’s largest commercial bank backs up this anecdotal evidence. The total amount of loans provided by ACLEDA Bank for housing purchases in 2013 was up nearly 15 per cent year-on-year, breaking the $100 million mark for the first time.

ACLEDA Bank senior vice-president and credit division director Inn Siphann told the Post that housing loans in 2013 totaled $107.3 million, up 14.6 per cent over 2012’s $93 million.

There was also a considerable increase in lending by ACLEDA for home improvements, Siphann said. In 2013 the lender provided $57.7 million in home improvement loans, compared with $45 million the previous year, translating into an increase of 28.2 per cent, he added.

Siphann said that there was no reason to expect a slowdown in the purchases and renovations of homes in 2014.

“Housing loans in 2014 will continue growing because of several factors such as continued economic development, population growth, more newlyweds, and movement of people from the countryside into cities and boreys,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

ACLEDA provided loans to 13,439 people last year, a nearly 25 per cent jump from 10,778 loan recipients in 2012.

Dr Bun Mony, Cambodia Microfinance Association director and CEO of microfinance institution Sathapana Limited, said the emergence of microfinance institutions and banks to support growing interest in housing investment is a positive development for Cambodia.

It allows those with the desire but not yet the means to purchase a home or improve their existing home, while contributing to the healthy development of the Kingdom’s property and construction sectors, he said. Low interest rates have been crucial to this development.

“Interest rates in the banking and microfinance industry in Cambodia are lower than those found in neighbouring countries,” Mony said. “It has hovered between one and two per cent, which is a positive sign.”

Key Real Estate general manager Sorn Seap said that banks played a vital role in the developing property sector. Low interest rates, long payback periods and rising incomes have brought the possibility of home ownership to a much larger percentage of the Kingdom’s population, he said.

That said, Seap believes interest rates could be lower still. “With lower interest rates, more people would be able to invest in the property sector through housing loans,” he said.

The Sihanoukville option

Thu, 16 January 2014

2_Sihanoukville’s-beach-lifestyle-is-fuelling-population-growth-and-a-tourism-boomAs property prices in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap continue to push upwards, many investors are quickly being priced out of these first-tier markets. Looking at second-tier cities around the Kingdom, Sihanoukville in particular stands out as an investment destination worth serious consideration.

Named after the King Father and home to the Kingdom’s only deep-water port, Sihanoukville is the capital of the province of the same name and is home to a fast-growing population of nearly 300,000.

Many of Sihanoukville’s residents are there for the port or its associated export-focused manufacturing. The city is Cambodia’s second-largest manufacturing base after Phnom Penh, with most of its output consisting of garments and shoes. Port and manufacturing aside, tourism and retirement are also bringing in throngs of people from around the country and the world who want to enjoy the Cambodian lifestyle near some of the Kingdom’s nicest beaches and islands.

Sihanoukville is composed of four sangkat, or communes, numbered one through four. Unsurprisingly, for residential and small business investment, Sangkat 4 – which has the most developed beachfront area – is presently the most popular location.

Sangkat 4 features the four-kilometre Occheuteal Beach, the western end of which is known as Serendipity Beach and is home to a seemingly endless line of restaurants and bars aimed at the wallets of beachgoers by day and revellers by night.

Nearby, Otres Beaches’ comparatively pristine conditions are beginning to attract more attention.

Sihanoukville Real Estate director Sieng Pharkdey told the Post that the city’s recent rapid growth was likely to continue in the short term due to several key factors.

“We have an international port and very nice natural beaches,” Pharkdey said. “Plus it’s a very safe place to live.” Since 2006 Sihanoukville Real Estate has focused on assisting international investors with property services in the area. Pharkdey said he has many different types of clients.

“Many retirees come here to buy property and live a relaxed life,” he said. “But there are others such as a group of British clients who are engineers. They buy a bare plot, build a unique building on it and sell it off at a high profit. Other people just want to have a bar or restaurant near the beach”

Pharkdey said Russians and Australians are currently the biggest investors in residential and business properties in Sihanoukville, while South Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and Russians were the main investors in industrial properties, typically in Sangkat 1 by the port or in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, just outside the city en route to the local airport. Industrial plots along National Road 4 are $50 per square metre, he said, adding that plots located 200 to 300 metres off the road were typically only $20 per square metre.

Non-industrial land in and around Sihanoukville is also much more affordable than in Phnom Penh. Land prices for businesses near the beach in Sangkat 4 are currently running between $400 and $450 per square metre, whereas residential properties further off the beach are selling for $50 to $70 per square metre.

For foreigners seeking to have full ownership of a condominium in Sihanoukville with strata title, new developments are beginning to come online in Sangkats 2, 3 and 4, with small units priced between $35,000 and $50,000.

For all other foreign property investments, a 51:49 Cambodian-foreign partnership is required, as elsewhere in the Kingdom. But foreigners aren’t the only ones who see opportunity in this sleepy beach city.

Phnom Penh native Leng Samnang, whose family owns Diamond Ocean Resort hotel, just 50 metres from Occheuteal Beach, told the Post that low competition and expected growth in tourism made Sihanoukville a natural choice.

“My father’s cousin has a hotel in Siem Reap, and he says the competition is quite intense. Sihanoukville is not big and developed like Siem Reap, it’s still developing, which is good for entrepreneurs like us.”

Samnang’s family bought the land in 2012 and by the end of the year began construction. Twenty-two of the hotel’s rooms are currently available to guests, while renovation on five floors and 55 more rooms is currently under way.

With no five-star competition yet, Samnang and other hospitality entrepreneurs have a chance to develop before competition intensifies in the coming years.

“Running a hotel is a new enterprise for us, but we like it. Feedback will be important in improving our service.”

Samnang said he and his family were expecting a big jump in tourism in Sihanoukville in 2015. Pharkdey of Sihanoukville Real Estate agreed, saying that tourism this past holiday season was noticeably higher than the year before.

There is obviously much room for growth in Sihanoukville at the moment, but there are many large plots of land near the beach area in Sangkat 4 waiting to be sold. It might be surprising that such large plots of land near the beach are not being snapped up faster. Sihanoukville Real Estate director Pharkdey said that a high level of local optimism toward the property sector is creating a disconnect between asking prices and actual value.

“Prices in some are higher than what they actually should be,” Pharkdey said. “One example is a 30-metre-by-40-metre plot in Sangkat 4 that the owner is selling for $1 million.”

Pharkdey said the excessive price tags on some real estate in the city come from one of two main factors: local confusion over how market prices are determined, and political connections and wealth that enable the landowner to be patient.

Despite these issues, Pharkdey is bullish on Sihanoukville’s property market in the short term, noting that land prices in prime locations rose 30 per cent in 2013.

“Even though the market does have some issues,” Pharkdey said, “anybody who wants to invest in a high-potential market while it’s still quite affordable should seriously consider Sihanoukville.”Read Original text

Design with a personal touch

Thu, 9 January 2014

8_Peter-MarinelliFor interior designer Peter Marinelli, Phnom Penh is a dream come true: endless residential and commercial spaces more in need of renovation than demolition.

The 58-year-old Melbourne native, who has been working as an interior designer for more than 37 years, is the director of Phnom Penh-based Marinelli Creative Designs.

In Australia, much of Marinelli’s clientele was split between residences and offices and larger hospitality projects including hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. He also worked for several years in Ho Chi Minh City before moving to Phnom Penh three years ago. Since moving here he has primarily been involved in renovating apartments and offices in the city centre.

The Post spoke with Marinelli about his goals in Phnom Penh and the future he sees for interior design in the city.

Post: What brought you to Phnom Penh?
Marinelli: Before coming to Phnom Penh I was living in Ho Chi Minh City and had some business contacts here who introduced the city to me. Cambodia had recently been receiving more exposure in Australian media as well. I love Cambodia, in some ways it reminds me of the 1970s in Australia – a similar laid-back lifestyle and a good family environment.

What philosophy do you bring to your client projects?
My goal is always the same – to create a good environment for a specific purpose. I work on existing properties to breathe new life into old spaces. I work closely with the client to make sure the goal is clear and then oversee every detail of the work my crew does. When necessary I’ll do certain aspects of the work myself. For me, the best thing about my job is when I see the customer’s satisfaction with the finished product.

What do your clients usually want?
With apartments and offices, a bright but relaxed environment is usually the objective. In hospitality and other businesses, the mood you want to go for is the one that appeals to the clients that you’re trying to attract. I’m heavily into light, sound and colours in order to create the mood that you want to go for.

What clients in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in Cambodia do you think are ideal for your services?
I’m interested in all kinds of clients, small hotels of up to 20 rooms, landlords with apartments or apartment buildings. With very little outlay and not much time, renovations to an existing space can translate to rents that are 30 to 40 per cent higher.

What about families that own their own apartments?
They’re important as well. I focus on residential properties on a personal level and like to work closely with the client to make sure that I know what they want. I especially enjoy designing spaces suitable to families. I have two children and one grandchild. I’m a family man.

What has been the biggest change in your line of work over the decades?
Technology has made my work easier and it has also made it easier for clients to know what they’re getting – with CAD computer imaging they can see the finished product before any work begins. This efficiency in the end means lower costs for myself and the client.

What are your basic rates for remodelling residential or office spaces?
Our rates are very reasonable. For a 90-square-metre two-bedroom flat, we can give it a facelift, not including furniture, for around $7,000 with turnaround within six weeks. A facelift for a 100-square-metre office might start at around $10,000.

As an interior designer, what kind of potential do you see in the coming years in Phnom Penh?
There are going to be some very big changes here in Phnom Penh. Architecturally there are a lot of solid but older buildings here. Ideally we don’t want to tear these buildings down, rather this existing architecture can be renovated to create unique new environments.

Peter Marinelli of Marinelli Creative Designs can be reached on 095 734 155 or via email at petermarinelli@gmail.com.Read Original text

Koh Pich: diamond in the rough slowly comes together

Thu, 9 January 2014

2_Construction-of-the-Diamond-Island-Riviera-project-is-beginning-to-push-skywardSince being designated for development by the municipal government in 2006, Koh Pich has been abuzz with activity. Now covered in the widest, least-congested roads in central Phnom Penh, this island is filling up quickly with residential, retail and hospitality projects aimed at affluent locals and visitors.

Koh Pich, which in Khmer means “Diamond Island”, sits at the mouth of where the Tonle Bassac river’s journey begins towards Vietnam. The island, which was formed by alluvial silt deposits, didn’t even exist until about half a century ago. Local legend has it that a boat sank where the island is today, steadily accumulating silt and sand until the island was formed.

From these humble beginnings, Koh Pich has become a showcase for Phnom Penh’s (and developer OCIC’s) growing developmental ambitions. The two-kilometre-long island is home to a golf driving range, the city’s largest international exhibition centre, a fire station, a new city hall and a theatre.

And that’s only what’s been completed. Massive developments are well under way, including the Elite Town and La Seine residential communities and the massive $100 million Diamond Island Riviera project.

Funded by OCIC subsidiary Canadia Bank, Diamond Island Riviera will feature two 28-storey buildings and three 38-storey buildings. The three taller buildings will be connected at the top by a 200-metre-long swimming pool, à la Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands resort.

The project will feature apartments, condominiums, offices, a supermarket and even an amusement park. Early last year the average price for condominiums was announced at $1,800 per square metre.

Independent Property Services sales director Bobby Peoples has watched Koh Pich take shape quickly in recent years.

“Diamond Island represents an exciting development for Phnom Penh and Cambodia as it brings together high-end residential [projects], an entertainment district and a retail hub,” Peoples said.

“The development on Diamond Island is really starting to take shape with the building of City Hall and the La Seine development. The aptly named gated community Elite Town located at the south end of Koh Pich continues to progress, plus The Riviera project modeled on the magnificent Marina Bay Sands development in Singapore is taking shape.”

For those looking to get in on the action on Koh Pich, however, the time is not necessarily now. Strolling along the island’s wide roads, one quickly realises that construction and exhibitions aside, for now it is a popular place for local youth to cruise around on their motorcycles and maybe have some barbecue. Several large tents near the exhibition centre are popular venues for wedding parties. But this will change as more projects come online.

“For those taking a medium- to long-term investment view, Diamond Island is a very attractive development due to its close proximity to the centre of the city, its infrastructure and its creative design concepts,” Peoples said.

“For those investors with a shorter-term view we recommend investing in other areas, as Diamond Island’s development will require a number of years to fully achieve its potential and therefore create significant capital gains for its investors.”

Diamond Island is indeed well-connected with “mainland” Phnom Penh. Three bridges link the island directly with Sihanouk Boulevard, Street 78 and Rose Garden.

Being an island, Koh Pich offers plenty of shoreline. Its eastern bank is already filled up with the Riviera, the driving range and other projects. The western bank, which overlooks a slight sliver of the Tonle Bassac, is already a popular dining area with local youth.

Another area regularly frequented by kids on motorcycles is the north end of the island, where a major reclamation project has been undertaken. This area may end up being the site of a “Diamond Tower” projected to reach between 550 and 610 metres high. When contacted by the Post about the proposed skyscraper and other plans for Koh Pich, municipal spokesman Long Dimanche declined to comment.

Independent Property Services’ Peoples said that regardless of the current construction site feel to the island, its future is a bright one.

“We envisage Diamond Island becoming the entertainment centre of Phnom Penh whilst also offering modern contemporary living,” he said. “Whether this can be achieved within the next two to three years is debatable.”Read Original text

Japan helping Phnom Penh with development of ‘master plans’

Read Original textThu, 2 January 2014

2_Uchida-TogoJapan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is the independent agency of the Japanese government that coordinates Official Development Assistance (ODA) for economic and infrastructure improvement in developing countries. JICA offers technical cooperation, ODA loans and grants, all paid by Japanese taxpayers.

JICA project formulation advisor Uchida Togo sat down and spoke with the Post about the current state of infrastructure in Phnom Penh and the provinces and the projects that JICA is involved with in the Kingdom.

Post: What do think about the situation of infrastructure in Phnom Penh?
Uchida: Overall, as you will know, Phnom Penh has been growing very quickly, with lot of activity in the private and public sectors. We want to help promote development, but on the other hand, development without a good plan can lead to difficulty in managing urban growth in the future.The way we see development in Phnom Penh is that it is beginning to need to cope with the issues that arise when a city experiences rapid growth, such as traffic congestion, garbage management, wastewater treatment and rising demand for both water and electricity. The objective of our assistance is to address these needs in the proper way.

What has JICA been working on with the Phnom Penh municipal government?
We have been engaged in many areas. We view development of infrastructure comprehensively and realise that it’s more important to have many different infrastructure projects that work together rather than focusing on individual projects to address individual issues. In Phnom Penh, we’ve provided assistance in the areas of transportation, energy, flood protection, drainage and water.

What kinds of funding does JICA use?
It varies. We are involved in quite a bit of grant assistance in Phnom Penh, but we also often use loan financing.

Why does JICA provide this kind of assistance?
Very simply put, Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and is its most important city in terms of economy and culture. If Phnom Penh develops soundly, we believe there will be substantial benefits for the rest of the Kingdom. With this in mind we’ve been actively assisting the government in the key sectors I mentioned before as well as energy, health and education. We do this through careful planning with the Cambodian government in order to identify key projects and sectors for cooperation. This is how we identified traffic congestion and environmental degradation as increasingly important issues, which we are now working on to address.

All told, how much funding has Japan provided Cambodia?
The total disbursement from Japan to Cambodia between 1992 and 2012 was $2.2 billion, which includes technical cooperation, ODA loans and grant aid. We are still calculating financial data for 2013, which we will release in March 2014.

What are some of the recent projects in which JICA has been involved?
In terms of water projects, we recently completed a water treatment facility in Phnom Penh – the Niroth water treatment plant. It is already operational. We are involved in a lot of drainage projects in Phnom Penh, as it is still a major issue for the city. We’re involved in one phase-two project and a phase-three project in drainage in the capital.

We are currently putting drainage pipes underground, which is disrupting traffic. We are trying to minimize the traffic jams we cause by the work to be on the side of the road rather than block the entire road, to whatever degree is possible. This drainage project began in 2012 and it will be completed in 2015.We are also working on a transportation master plan. This requires us to analyse current traffic volumes and pinpoint existing and potential bottlenecks. We are working with the city government on that.

Additionally we are putting an electricity master plan for the city together, as well as plans for drainage and sewage. With so many people living in Phnom Penh, wastewater is a major issue to address.

What other projects is JICA involved with in Cambodia?
We’re working on replacement and expansion of water supply infrastructure for provincial capitals, which also involves capacity building. This is all done through a mix of technical cooperation, grant aid and loans.

What message do you have for the general public?
The end user of this new infrastructure is the people. We would like to emphasize that this infrastructure can improve living conditions, but if you don’t take care of it, then it will not last long. If you do take care of it, you will be able to use it for a long, long time. We are assisting in drainage improvements in Phnom Penh with the goal of reducing the impact of flooding caused by rain on the city. For this to be most effective, people will need to stop littering and keep the streets clean so that the drainage systems can function properly. We know this kind of change takes some time, but we have to promote these ideas along with assisting with physical infrastructure so that living conditions in the capital can further improve in the future. We are also doing this in the provincial cities through Cambodian counterparts who have accumulated knowledge and experience working with us in Phnom Penh.