Issues related to urban planning, land titling, land disputes, construction investment and other matters concerning the construction and property industries are expected to be given more impetus and priority after the appointment of H.E. Chea Sophara as Senior Minister and Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in April.

Appointed as part of a cabinet reshuffle in the middle of the government’s fifth mandate, the new minister replaces the retiring H.E. Im Chhun Lim. As the nation’s new land and construction regulator the new Minister has been tasked with bringing strong leadership to the hot issues faced by the ministry.

At his inauguration ceremony on 6 April, H.E. Chea Sophara made a commitment to continue to enhance ministerial staff efficiency, push a systematic land titling process and ethnic group land titling [especially propelling the government’s 01 Prakas], and to crack down on the illegal penetration of public land and violation of peoples’ ownership.

He vowed to, “Stop and resolve illegal property developments, urge effective urban planning management by specifying the city zoning and building height, ensure the successful implementation of the social land concession policy, and join hands with sub-national authorities to implement the 3rd mandate of the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy.”

The general public, observers and industry insiders have expressed confidence in H.E. Chea Sophara’s capacity and commitment to end controversial land and property issues in the Kingdom thanks to his reputation and strong background in the nation’s land and urban planning issues.

Shortly after his appointment, he solved a controversial land dispute on Sihanoukville’s coastal zone by delivering the public area under the provincial governor’s management, strengthening officials’ attendance and strengthening the issuance procedure for building permits.

Now 63 years old, H.E. Chea Sophara has had vast experience in public service, in particular in positions with authority and experience in urban planning. His career to date has included being Governor of Tuol Kok District (1985-1988), Phnom Penh Deputy Governor (1988-1995), Phnom Penh Municipality’s First Deputy Governor (1995-1999), Royal Government Delegate in charge of First Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh Municipality (1999), Royal Government Delegate in charge of Governor of Phnom Penh Municipality (1999-2003), Secretary of State to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (2004-2008) and Minister of Rural Development (2008-2013). 

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction was formulated during the government’s 2nd mandate by combining officials from five government agencies and seven autonomous institutions led by H.E. Im Chhun Lim. 

Delivering his wrap-up report of his 17 years of service in the ministry since 1999, H.E Im Chhun Lim reported that 3,015 officials are under the ministry’s payroll, divided between 645 officials at the central level, 985 officials at the city/province urban planning departments, and another 1,365 in city/commune/district level. Among them, there are 399 engineers, 220 architects, 181 urban planners, 408 cadastral experts, and 258 legal experts. 920 of the staff have higher education degrees.

The ministry also manages a faculty of land administration and urban planning based at the Royal University of Agriculture, and a medium training center specialising in cadastral and urban planning.

The ministry has been dealing with six major missions in line with government policy, namely; works related to policies and legal frameworks; land titling and land disputes, urban planning and construction, social land concessions, coastal zone planning and management, and public housing works.

Former Minister Im Chhun Lim also raised ongoing challenges to be tackled by his successor’s team. These included disseminating existing policies and legal frameworks to officials and the people, enhancing and building  officials’ capacity, completing personnel’s’ duty check list, resolving land disputes, strengthening building standards, and addressing illegal property developments.

In 2011, the ministry helped initiate two associations; the state-run Board of Architects Cambodia (BAC) with 499 individual registered architects and the privately-run Cambodia Constructors Association (CCA) which has 113 member companies to date.

The ministry’s revenue from property ownership transferring services has climbed from $3.3 million in 2005, when there were only 1.5 million registered titles, to  $81 million in 2015 with over 4 million titled registered. Last year, the ministry also recorded hypothec on 17,000 titles worth $3.6 billion in loan value.

It also approved 2,305 construction projects including 184 large projects built on 7.6 million square metres worth an estimated $3.3 billion— a 10-fold rise compared to 2000 at only $328 million. The ministry also registered 235 construction-related companies in 2015.

According to a survey by the ministry, Cambodia’s construction industry generates 200,000 to 250,000 jobs for people daily. Non-skilled workers earn between $6 and $7.5 per day, skilled workers earn between $12.5 and $15 per day, while engineers and architects earn between $350 and $2,000 per month.

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