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Covid-19 fails to crack construction imports

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Cambodia imported $565.91 million worth of building materials in the first half of this year. Heng Chivoan

Covid-19 fails to crack construction imports

The construction and real estate sectors in the Kingdom by and large dodged the worst of the sweeping Covid-19 crisis that ravaged the garments, textile and tourism sectors, Cambodia Constructors Association general manager and secretary Chiv Sivpheng said on Wednesday.

He told The Post that construction activity continues at a modest rate and imports performed well in the first half of this year, but noted that the pandemic had drained momentum from the projects, particularly foreign-owned ones.

Cambodia imported $565.91 million worth of building materials in the first half of this year, while arrivals were in excess of $1.50655 billion for the whole year 2019, data from the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s General Department of Customs and Excise show.

Broken down by category, the Kingdom imported 217,151 tonnes of steel worth $140.8 million, 681,817 tonnes of cement worth $43.27 million and 672,785 tonnes of “construction equipment” worth $381.84 million.

For the whole year 2019, it imported 722,621 tonnes of steel worth $477.19 million, 1.97 million tonnes of cement worth $129 million and 1.7 million tonnes of “construction equipment” worth $900.51 million.

Sivpheng attributed what he called “disheartening figures when compared to 2019” to hurdles for investors stemming from Covid-19 travel restrictions and a surge in domestic production capacity.

He said: “Covid-19 has kept investors and construction technicians from returning to Cambodia, slowing down construction activity somewhat in the first half. Additionally, the number of factories contributing to domestic supply is on the rise.”

As the Covid-19 situation ebbs and flows, the construction sector is unquestionably regaining traction, he said, citing a year-on-year increase in the number and the value of construction projects approved by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in the first half of this year.

“I am unreservedly confident that the Cambodian construction sector will make a full recovery by the end of this year,” Sivpheng said.

The ministry reported that it approved more than $3.84 billion in new projects in the construction sector during the first half of this year, climbing 13.26 per cent on a yearly basis.

Huy Vanna, secretary-general of advisory firm Housing Development Association of Cambodia, cited as the main culprit behind the slump experienced across the construction sector’s segments, most notably condominiums and larger projects.

“Construction is still ongoing. It’s just that for every 100 steps it would have taken in the pre-Covid-19 era, it is taking 50 for the time being, waiting out the market situation,” he said.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng opined that travel and freight transport restrictions were the number one driver of lacklustre first-half building material imports and delays in construction activity.

“Economic activity in all sectors is on a steady track to recovery and I know that strong momentum will return soon,” he said.

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