Government Agrees to Review of Railway Evictees

The government has agreed to review its resettlement agreement with families relocated from railways as part of an Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded rehabilitation project, but has refused a recommendation to set up a debt-relief scheme for the evictees, according to an action plan released by the ADB last week.

The long-awaited Management’s Action Plan follows a report from the ADB’s compliance review panel, released in February, that found major flaws in the bank’s efforts to protect roughly 4,000 families who lost land to a $143 million project to restore Cambodia’s dilapidated railway system.

The ADB’s plan outlines six recommendations to ensure that the affected families are not worse off than they were prior to being resettled or losing land.

The recommendations include establishing a compensation deficit payment scheme, improving facilities at relocation sites and establishing a “debt workout scheme.”

According to the plan, the government agreed to review each affected household and improve relocation sites for the families, but said it would not provide some of the recommended compensation, and also rejected a proposal to provide loans to help relieve debt among the evictees.

“[T]he Government does not agree to provide compensation for additional income losses from the date of relocation,” as early as 2010, “up to the commencement of income restoration activities,” which began as early as 2011.

The government did agree to assess facilities at relocation sites and “improve them to conform to relevant country standards.”

The government rejected the ADB’s recommendation that it provide loans to families “on the grounds that debt workout is not a compliance issue,” but has agreed that the ADB can create an alternate scheme with microfinance institutions and NGOs.

The ADB says that it will provide technical assistance and increase its field presence to ensure the government follows through on its latest commitments.

“ADB will continue to perform its supervisory role and will actively support and engage with the Government with the aim of bringing the project into compliance with ADB policies and procedures,” the plan says.

David Pred, managing associate of Inclusive Development International, said the newly released plan was “half-baked.”

“This half-baked plan will guarantee that people are left worse off and that the project will remain non-compliant with the safeguard policies that the Cambodian government agreed to comply with when it accepted over $100 million in loans and grants from ADB and the Australian government to develop the railway,” Mr. Pred said.

“I am confident that the executive directors who are tired of this perpetual egg on ADB’s face will demand that they go back to the drawing board and return with a plan that actually does what the Board directed,” he added.

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