Imports of cars and motorbikes increased by nearly 20 percent in the first two months of the year, compared with the same period last year, amid efforts by the Phnom Penh municipality to cut down on worsening traffic congestion in the city.
In January and February, combined vehicle imports reached 165,177, an increase of 19.2 percent on the 138,531 imported in 2013. The value of those imports rose 19.4 percent from $113 million in 2013 to $135 million this year.
Lay Sovann, co-owner of Lay Hout Motorcycles in Phnom Penh, said sales increased considerably this year as 30 percent of buyers are using microfinance loans, compared to just 10 percent the year before.
Mr. Sovann also attributed the sales increase to a general rise in consumer spending as incomes steadily rise.
“Sales have increased as people who grow rice and have land make more money and as more people turn to microfinance,” he said.
The rise in vehicle imports comes as Phnom Penh’s municipal government is trying to prevent gridlock on the city’s already over-congested streets.
A public bus service was launched in February by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. It is set to expand as a private operation.
Ear Chariya, Road Safety Program Manager of Handicap International, said the prospect of more vehicles on Phnom Penh streets should prompt the government to invest in public transport and in fixing the city’s decrepit roads.
“Rush hour traffic is a big problem which many people complain about, and the only solution is to introduce public transport,” he said.
“The roads also need to be improved as they currently deter people from walking anywhere.”
Masato Koto, chief of mission for Japanese agency’s transportation planning group in Phnom Penh, said the bus service has helped to reduce traffic, but more needs to be done to unclog city streets.
“There needs to be proper enforcement of parking as there are still a lot of vehicles parking illegally, which is obstructing vehicles and pedestrians,” he said.
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