Japan and France Midwife Cambodia’s Water Treatment Plant

I am so glad today we have the chance to get together with the Buddhist monks to celebrate the inauguration of the Nirot Water Treatment Plant, Phase-I in the Sangkat Nirot, Khan Meanjei of Phnom Penh. It is especially important for me today since it is my fourth time to put into official use such major project for clean water provision in Phnom Penh. It should be reminded that in 2000 and 2003 I also involved in putting into official operation of the water treatment plant in the village of Prek, financed by Japan. In 2006, I was present at the inauguration of the water treatment plant in Jroy Jangva, financed by the Republic of France.

This is my fourth time to put another water treatment plant into operation, especially this one, financed by the Republic of France and Japan, into operation. I would argue that it is the first-of- its-kind project in the form of trio cooperation – Cambodia, Japan and France. That is what Cambodia would like to see. We have also incorporated partnership in development issue, harmonization of development in Cambodia included, into the meeting agenda with our partners. We could also compare this project to one that Cambodia is a woman in labor, for whom Japan and France serve as midwives.

Everyone remembers that Japan and France were co-chairmen of the International Committee on the Reconstruction of Cambodia (ICORC) after the achievement of the Paris Peace Agreement. Its meetings took turn between France and Japan too. The two countries held very important and active roles in finding political solutions, reaching the Paris Peace Agreement on 23 October 1991, to the Cambodian problem.

Roles of Japan and France in Cambodia’s Peace

Maybe it is important for me to clarify why do we have to celebrate so many inaugurations for so many water-supply systems in Phnom Penh? Our capital had been quite uniquely different from other countries’ capitals in the world. We cannot compare it with others. After the liberation of 1979, Phnom Penh was without water supply. The Polpotists evacuated people from Phnom Penh since 1975. People returned only in 1979. We had to restore the country from scratch. To go back a bit, we may ask ourselves question like what would happen to us if there were no liberation on January 7, 1979 to set us free from Pol Pot? Would we all survive into today? Our elderly people who went through the time could have answered this question.

(It is clear that not) if we leave Pol Pot to be (in power) for another 34 years, even in three years, we would not have chance to be set free and survive till today. Without these senior fellow citizens, how could we argue for the existence and survival of the younger generations? How could they, when their parents and/or grandparents already died. Henceforth one could also pose a question if it were not for the 7 January 1979 liberation day, what would happen to Phnom Penh? Let me remind you that when I first came to Phnom Penh, the coconut trees around the central market and the independence monument of Phnom Penh were already as tall as I was. We could have foreseen then that Phnom Penh would definitely be a coconut and banana farms.

Now we have brought remaining leaders of the regime to justice. I am talking about our efforts to resolve the Cambodian problem and to seek for peace, in which Japan and France had been playing significant roles. Everyone knows that I conducted numerous meetings with the late Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod, while the international conference held in Paris. With helps of former Foreign Ministers of Japan and Thailand, we were able to set up the Supreme National Council or SNC in Tokyo. The Paris Peace Agreement mentions about the restoration and rehabilitation of Cambodia, where Japan and France took turn as co-chairman of ICORC.

Putting Foreign Assistance to Good Use

We all have witnessed (this achievement) with our own eyes. The two countries’ contributions have noted to extend from the time when Cambodia was in search for peace to the present redevelopment stage. Today we put into official use a new component of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PWSA) financed by Japan and France. HE Ambassador of France already indicated the model of cooperation between the French Agency for Development (AFD) and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which I have so much pride of such an international effort. I may stress here that this also indicates that Cambodia has been putting foreign assistance into effective use.

Should we fail to achieve that, I am sure you understand, no country would want to assist us. That is one truth and no one could ever fake it. If we fail to make good use of their money, I am sure you understand that the Japanese or French Ambassador would not be quiet and their parliaments would not ignore it. They adopted the decision to provide funds to Cambodia. They would not rest if we do not properly use the fund. Today’s achievement can be a symbol of appreciation of the two major democratic and good governance powers.

Japan and France Offer More Assistances

I would therefore express my sincere thanks and appreciation through the two Ambassadors to the governments of Japan and France for financing this project to strengthen the water supply capacity for our country. According to the report here by HE Suy Sem, Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, the project costs 90 million USD, for which the PWSA contributed 29,800,000, JICA contributed 40,060,000 USD and AFD contributed some 20 million USD.

Let me take this opportunity to express to the Ambassadors of France and Japan, who despite their effective efforts in this respect. Already in the early part of his term, the Japanese Ambassador HE Yuji Kumamaru will sign in my presence the exchange of note of over 100 million USD of Japanese assistance for the reconstruction of the national road 5 (over 90 million USD) and other projects (over 30 million USD). In just few months, Japan signed on its assistance of over 100 million USD to Cambodia.

As for the ambassador of France, he already recalled that last March he already witnessed the phase-II development project into 2020 as far as this water supply is concerned. What we are putting into official use today is the phase-I development. The phase-II project will entail another 30 million Euro. He also emphasized the provision of some Euro 70 million for many of Cambodia’s projects. He also stressed in his observation a new impetus in our cooperation, in which a concessional loan of over 20 million USD will be provided for Cambodia’s hydrology, a successful model of historic cooperation between the two countries. With French assistance, both sovereign and non-sovereign loans, from one stage to another, we have expanded our reach in hydrology.

Who would know Cambodia better than France and Japan? HE Serge Mostura could have been to the French School of the Far East. The Japanese also came to Cambodia in the past and they had war history with each other in Cambodia too. In 1945, Japan came into Cambodia while French moved out. There is a record in our history that there was a group of French soldiers escaped and disguised themselves in the village of Kok Trabek, Baray district of Kompong Thom province, from search and arrest by the Japanese. That is history. Now both of them are cooperating to find peace for Cambodia and to help Cambodia develop clean water supply.

Confidence in Political Stability

Without waiting for period after the elections, I thank the governments of Japan and France for making these decisions. It is true that the two countries, which are major economic, political and democratic powers, have been sure in their predictions about Cambodia’s political stability in the period before the elections. Frankly speaking, in absence of confidence, there would not be these developments. Like in Syria, when fighting entails, this would not happen. The signing of more assistance for Cambodia prior to the elections signifies their confidence in Cambodia’s political stability. It is different from the elections in 2003 when some countries understood that they had to wait for the elections and some even decided to wait until we had a new government in place as Cambodia stuck in a political impasse.

That is a true story. Please do not judge it as a political message. This year is the 60th anniversary of Cambodia-Japan relations. It is a coincidence that HM the King of Cambodia is also turning into 60 years old. Our relation with France is also a long one. I wish further advancement in the relations between our countries.

Equitable Growth Distribution

I would affirm, in this instance, to HE Ambassadors of Japan and France, and other development partners that we would not disappoint them. While friends help us, we will have to do likewise in return. We understand that our friends may have difficulties if we were not using their funding transparently, in which case those governments may have to face with questions from their parliaments. The Royal Government will continue all its reforms to promote developments where good governance is at the centre of the rectangular strategy for growth, equity and efficiency. HE Serge Mostura, the French Ambassador, has said a sentence, which I highlighted: “Phnom Penh has scored speedy development like the country of Cambodia itself…” This has confirmed that in his opinion the country and capital city are both making remarkable developments.

Urban and rural areas are making development altogether as we are putting more infrastructures along with the provision of services of education and health, etc. to bridge the gap between them. This is what we see as furthering economic growth and redistributing the growth equitably. It has not been my belief that any political and administrative integration would work without physical infrastructures integration such as roads, bridges, schools and all the like.

PWSA – A Model Enterprise

Let me now talk about PWSA. I have reserved sincere appreciation for PWSA for having scored leading progress and becoming the only company listed in the Cambodian stock market. This company used to receive both assistance and loan. However, with the way it works and manages them, since 2000, PWSA has maintained the same price for water it provides compared to electricity price, which has fluctuated. Despite fluctuating rate of loss, more or less, PWSA never increase its price. There was a time when PSWA would pay back ADB’s loan before schedule. However, HE Keat Chon, Minister for Finance, decides to use that fund for other projects since we have not yet reached the loan deadline yet. We use the fund to make more money first.

PSWA has become a model enterprise that creates confidence in various development partners, France and Japan included. They have always been considerate and financed more of PWSA investment projects. I would take this chance to express sincere thanks for efforts of the governing board, former general director HE Ek Sam Chan and the current general director Sun Sitha as well as officials and staff of the PSWA. It is worth mentioning that PSWA has received so far four world awards for bringing down the rate of water loss. According to the report of HE Suy Sem, Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, PSWA has brought the rate of water loss greatly down. We started from the rate of 73% and I had better share it with younger people who may not know about this.

Since the water pipes were not in use for almost four years under Pol Pot, coupling with the fact that we also had no ability to restore water supply in the early part of the time we liberated our country from the genocide, many were in damages and/or leakages. The amount of water supplied from the PSWA sustained high leakages and losses. As is reported in HE Suy Sem’s report, the investment that we are witnessing today provides a great chance that 85% of the population in Phnom Penh, the city of Takhmao also included, will have running water 24 hours upon 24 hours. We have placed some 200 Km of water distribution pipe for some 238,700 consumers.

We have more and more satellite cities coming, it is important to anticipate the surge of demand for water and electricity. We all have noticed the development of the city of Phnom Penh. In 1979, the city’s coverage was about 300 square Kilometers only. As of now, the city has extended its coverage to more than 760 square Kilometers. I approved four times already for the enlargement of the city coverage since I became Prime Minister.

Voting Yourself the Cambodian People’s Party

I thank senior citizens, brothers and sisters who live in Phnom Penh for always providing support and participating in the city development. No development could have achieved without people’s participation. I am grateful for their generous understanding and support for the political platform of the Royal Government of Cambodia, the leadership of the Phnom Penh Municipal and my leadership as Prime Minister all along. I hope that we will go on receiving this support on 28 July 2013. I have contributed in my leadership for this achievement that we are witnessing here today. Voting for the Cambodian People’s Party is voting for me and you will get the benefit from your decision. I am sure you do not vote for turmoil and war. Voting yourself the Cambodian People’s Party to maintain peace, stability and further development./.