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Infrastructure & Utilities in Cambodia

Here we review the state of Cambodia’s infrastructure and utilities: transport, power, and natural resources. 

Due consideration should be given to the availability of services when planning the location for business activities in the Kingdom of Cambodia. 

As a developing country the Cambodian government is investing heavily in infrastructure, often partnering with other countries (China, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union) and international aid to fund major projects.

The China-backed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has also contributed to the development of transport infrastructure, hydropower plants, airports, and ports in Cambodia.

With electrical power lines resembling airborne spaghetti and road intersections that have in the past resembled a demolition derby, it’s a reasonable assessment to say that Cambodia still has a bit of work to do on improving its infrastructure and utility setup but the rate of development is fast.

Staying abreast of the ongoing developments in this sector can be critical for people doing business in Cambodia, particularly when any shortcomings have the potential to affect your bottom line. 

In 2019, the Council of Ministers approved a public investment programme that will see the government and its development partners spend $14.4 billion in more than 600 projects until 2022.

These business-critical services are key and we provide a snapshot of the Kingdom’s infrastructure and utilities.

Updated April 2020

  • Cambodia’s road network has been vastly improved and continues to be upgraded. By March 2020, Cambodia has constructed more than 16,292 kilometres of national and provincial roads.
  • A number of the national roads are undergoing major upgrades: South Korean-funded national roads 2 and 22 reconstruction projects started in 2020.
  • China has financed the construction of 3,287 kilometres of roads in the Kingdom and eight large-scale bridges in the aggregate length of 7.95 km by the end of 2019.
  • A 190-km four-lane expressway linking Phnom Penh to the deep-sea port province of Preah Sihanoukville started in 2019, and the $1.9-billion project is expected to be completed by 2023.
  • Journey times to more remote areas such as Banlung in Ra­tanakiri province and to Koh Rong have been greatly reduced.
  • In Phnom Penh a host of new bridges, intersections and roads are springing up all across the city. These projects seek to alleviate congestion in the capital, and many more are already in the pipeline.
  • Six flyover passes/bridges have been constructed in the capital by 2020: Kbal Tnorl, Steung Mean Chey, 7 Makara, 5 Makara (Institute of Technology of Cambodia), Psar Dey Huy and Cham Chao roundabout.
  • More and more building developments are being designed with inclusive parking facilities, and steps are increasingly being taken by city authorities to free the edge of some inner city streets for retail and parking.
  • New mega shopping malls are including mass car parking spaces lots and in March 2020 in Phnom Penh a purpose built underground parking lot next to the US Embassy was completed with more than 340 parking spaces.
  • Different contributing countries, banks and private companies invest in road infrastructure projects in different areas of the country, depending on their intentions and interests.
  • The relatively low level of available resources limits the repairs and maintenance that can be carried out on the road network. Many roads suffer from potholes and poor maintenance, especially in areas that see a large number of heavy construction vehicles. 
  • The rainy season in Cambodia also affects the conditions of many roads.
  • Roads are often a determining factor in rural Cambodia; so if there’s a road, especially a graded laterite road, then there is likely to be other infrastructure in place such as water and electricity connections.
  • Most economic land concessions have been placed along major roads as a result of the requirement for access to utilities and infrastructure, and in particular the need to move produce to markets or ports.
  • New bridges are also being planned for and have been constructed to increase road journey times between major cities.
  • In 2019, Phnom Penh installed a new traffic management system including 100 new traffic lights, traffic signal controls, a CCTV system, network monitoring etc.
  • The Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC)is the government agency responsible for managing and administering the provision of electric power in Cambodia.
  • In Cambodia, electricity is generated and/or distributed by: Electricite Du Cambodge (EDC), a government enterprise, private entities including Independent Power Producers (IPP) in the provincial towns and licensees in smaller towns, and the Rural Electricity Enterprises (REE) in the rural areas.
  • Electricity rates in Cambodia vary considerably across the country. But the rates are not competitive compared to neighbouring Thailand or Vietnam. Businesses in the capital of Phnom Penh should expect to pay about $0.25 (1000 riel) per kilowatt-hour, though rates increase if consumption exceeds certain amounts. Outside of Phnom Penh, rates are higher, and can reach as high as $0.75 (3000 riel) per KWh in some provincial areas. 
  • Many rural areas have no access to grid electricity, so companies operating here will need to use renewable energy sources and/or a generator.
  • Many older Cambodian buildings have quite limited electricity supply, for example 12Amps (2880W). This means if your electrical appliances draw more than 12Amps there’s literally not enough juice to go around (even a kettle can use over 2000W). So if you’re working from an older building (an old villa for example) you might need to increase the supply to 20 or 30Amps or more. Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) will do this for you but you’ll still need a decent electrician to install a proper fuse box. 
  • Modern purpose-built offices and developments won’t have this problem, however if you open a restaurant in an old shop house you may well need to get the electrical supply upgraded.
  • The Cambodian government is working to reduce industrial electricity costs in a bid to make Cambodia a more attractive place to invest as well as investing in new projects and renewable energy.
  • Reduced night time tariffs for industrial, commercial and agricultural use were set by the Electricity Authority of Cambodia in late August 2014.
  • Even in Cambodia’s city hubs and in developed urban areas, blackouts are still common, particularly during the hotter months (from March to May) although it generally has improved. 
  • If your business requires a reliable electricity supply then invest in a backup generator or a specialist blackout protection system.
  • Critical electronic equipment should be attached to a UPS (uninterrupted power supply). You should also consider purchasing a voltage stabiliser as the supply is subject to spikes, which can damage sensitive equipment. Bear in mind also that few older buildings are earthed—a building maintenance company can organise this for you though the premises will need to be rewired.
  • Solar power is increasingly common in rural Cambodia and equipment prices are relatively affordable. Such systems are ideal for telecommunications companies and NGOs with facilities in more remote areas. A grid-tie system or a combination of generator and solar power is often employed.
  • In 2013, only 22.5% of Cambodian households had access to electricity, but by 2017 68% of homes were provided with some form of electricity. The government plans for at least 90 per cent of households nationwide to be connected to the grid by 2030.
  • Hydro-electric generation capacity is affected by poor rainfall but 
  • In mid-2019, Cambodia’s state-run electricity supplier Electricite Du Cambodge (EDC) signed an agreement with two Chinese firms to build a power facility fueled by heavy fuel oil and liquefied natural gas that will be able to generate 400 megawatts.
  • In 2018, Cambodia produced approx. 2,000 million kilowatts of power, with another 2,300 million kilowatts imported to support its energy needs. Cambodia consumed 2,650 MW the same year and electricity from Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
  • The Kingdom’s third solar power station came online in April 2020 with more planned. The Cambodian government is planning to increase investments in solar energy by 20% until 2022.
  • Cambodia announced in March 2020 that it will delay developing any new hydroelectric dams on the Mekong River for a decade. Cambodia used hydropower for about 48% of its domestic electricity production by the end of 2019.
  • Between 2013 and 2022, Cambodia’s overall power generation is expected to increase by an annual average of 18.5%, reaching 11.1 terawatt hours.
  • The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM) is the Government body in charge of regulating, monitoring and expanding water resources in Cambodia.
  • The Ministry is composed of ten departments and one technical center which focuses on irrigation and meteorology. The ministry has local representatives called “Provincial Departments of MOWRAM” in 24 provinces.
  • Any new business should assume that water sources for personal consumption or industrial use will differ vastly by location. Assess any water queries in person on site, through discussions with similar shareholders in the area where you wish to purchase or lease land, and through contacting the relevant water authority.
  • The Phnom Penh water supply authority (PPWSA) provides water to the capital’s citizens and businesses, with very few issues. It is not advised to drink water directly from the tap in Phnom Penh, however. Despite the cleanliness of the water when it leaves the filtration centers, keep in mind problems in underground infrastructure and piping throughout the city may pollute the water before it arrives at your home or business.
  • Water pressure can also be a problem, so it’s advised to check before moving into any premises.
  • Special Economic Zones and the other developed areas will generally have a good supply of running water. Providing sound infrastructure and utilities is, after all, one of the SEZs’ key selling points.
  • Water tariffs in Phnom Penh and major cities can be much lower than in some other Southeast Asian cities.
  • Droughts and adverse dry weather can cause low water levels and water shortages in Cambodia. 
  • There are four main water treatment plants in Phnom Penh 2020 with more being built.
  • Well drilling is an option in rural areas, and many businesses in provincial areas, such as agriculturalists and tourism vendors, rely on wells as their sole source of water.
  • A lack of restrictions to the use of underground aquifers means that wells can be run dry because of competing wells along the same aquifer. This requires wells to be drilled deeper to satisfy increasing water demands.
  • Keep in mind, water drawn from wells may still need treatment before being used for drinking.
  • Waste disposal is a utility to which Cambodians and businesses have relatively limited access.
  • Urban areas and SEZs offer waste disposal services, whereas in the countryside rubbish is generally burnt.
  • By late 2019, Cambodia produces more than 10,000 tonnes of waste daily, more than 3.6 million tonnes a year, representing all categories of waste – household, industrial, hazardous, construction, and demolition rubbish.
  • Waste disposal services range in price depending on whether you’re a household or a business, and depending on what type of business you operate. Check with your waste collector for rates.
  • CINTRI, is a private company owned by CINTEC of Canada and has been collecting rubbish in Phnom Penh since 2002. CINTRI was also available in Sihanoukville but in 2017, KSWM displaced Cintri as the sole trash collector in the coastal city.
  • In late 2019, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Phnom Penh City Hall were asked to work with CINTRI on its acquisition. The plan is to divide the capital into four zones and then tender out contracts to four separate companies.
  • Global Action for Environment Awareness (GAEA) is a rubbish and waste collection company operating in Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Thom and Kampot.
  • The Cambodian government said in 2019 it would subsidise any investment on waste-to-energy (WTE) from the private sector so long as it uses local waste. Imported waste to generate energy is not allowed.
  • Strikes have occurred among waste collectors in Cambodia’s main cities, and during major public holidays, waste can be known to build up in the city streets for as long as a week.
  • Chip Mong Ecocycle Business unit opened in December 2019 in Kampot to provide an environmentally-friendly solution to dispose of Industrial waste.
  • Cambodia and international aid partners are looking into more effective waste management and recycling options for the country.
  • In Cambodia, cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminium cans and metal are the main items that can get recycled.
  • “Edjai” as they are locally known, or waste pickers, travel around the cities like Phnom Penh, collecting recyclables from the trash or buying them directly from residents, which they then sell to recycling stations for a small profit. You can separate your recyclables for the edjai (or etjai) ahead of time, and save them the effort of trawling the rubbish bags. Aluminium cans and plastic bottles are sought after.
  • In addition, several NGOs will take paper products to be recycled or made into materials that can be sold which, in addition to helping the environment, benefits communities that need better livelihoods.
  • Friends International accepts paper and other products such as plastic bags. Smateria, a boutique retailer, takes plastic bags, paper, cardboard boxes, milk and juice boxes, and plastic straws. Prime Tech in Tuol Kork will take printer toner cartridges and sell recycled cartridges. The Anana computer store in Phnom Penh center has a recycling bin for batteries. The Children’s Surgical Center will take reading eyeglasses.
  • Organisations such as LICADHO and Friends International accept used clothing, electronics, and other items for donation to needy families or to sell. Most of these organisations in Phnom Penh offer the convenience of home pick-up. Please check with the relevant organisations beforehand.
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