06/01/2007, 00.00
CAMBODIA

Glitzy modern satellite city to be built near Phnom Penh and its poor slums

The project is a sign of the country’s real estate boom after decades of civil war. Young people lead the residential boom as they buy new houses.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – World City, a joint venture between South Korean and Cambodian companies, has begun building a satellite city near Phnom Penh. The US$ 2 billion urban development project will be financed by South Korea's Shinhan Bank.

The South Korean bank will provide US$ 65 million to build Camko City's first thousand residential units, and infrastructure for the development, which is expected to take between 11 and 15 years to complete. The first phase is due for completion in two years and the latter phases will include a university, a hospital and schools

The development is the latest outgrowth of Cambodia's building boom—one of the country's most visible signs of recovery after decades of civil war and destitution.

Bolstered by its newfound political stability and large injections of donor aid, Cambodia achieved GDP growth of 10.5 per cent last year. And new houses are being marketed to the growing numbers of young Cambodians.

“After the Khmer Rouge regime ended [in 1979], there were more children than average. Now they are 25, 26 years old, and they have families who need homes," said Hang Chuon Naron, secretary-general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Average price tags are US$ 120,000.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the trend. Some have voiced concern about Cambodia's ability to manage its urban growth, particularly when 35 per cent of the population still lives below the poverty line.

“We should not have huge developments surrounded by slums, with the poorest of the poor looking up at the skyscrapers,” said Mu Sochua, secretary-general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Noting Phnom Penh's “limited and inadequate housing supply,” Robert Taliercio, senior Cambodia economist for the World Bank, cited the capital's need to manage its building boom without losing its character. “[I]t would be a shame if it became just another generic-looking East Asian megalopolis,” he said.

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