Small vendors hit hard by nationwide blackouts

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Electricity in Tuol Tompoung Market, better known as Russian Market, has regularly been cut off half the day in recent weeks. Hong Menea

With no customers, Ma Sokheng can only sit fanning herself in her dark clothes store in Tuol Tompoung Market, better known as Russian Market, during a blackout.

“Without electricity, the market is very dark, it has no air, and it is very hot. Nobody wants to shop,” Sokheng said.

 

Recently, electricity in the market has been cut off half the day every day, costing her 70 per cent of her customers.

“I am sure that this month I will lose money and I’m concerned whether I can pay my rent of $1,000 or not,” she said.

Another clothes seller named Thida said she was worried about her ability to pay her rent as she can only open her shop for half the day.

“It is really difficult to run a business without electricity. I don’t know yet if I am able to pay the store’s rent this month,” she said.

Meeting electricity demands

With the hot season yet to hit, Cambodia is already facing an electricity shortage, resulting in national utility company Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) seeking to cut daytime usage to ensure supplies at night.

 

Prime Minister Hun Sen last week said Cambodia currently lacks up to 400MW in electricity supplies. He said the Kingdom is considering importing a 200MW-capacity power ship from Turkey to meet demand as the country faces an ongoing electricity shortage.

EDC also signed an agreement this month with Laos for a 200MW increase in electricity supply starting in 2021.

Cambodia imported total of 442.5MW of electricity from neighbouring countries last year, of which 277MW came from Vietnam, 135.5MW from Thailand and 30MW from Laos.

The prime minister recently called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia struggles to meet demand due to the ongoing drought, which has caused critically low water levels in power station reservoirs.

The government expects electricity consumption in the Kingdom this year to reach 10,807.71GWh, compared to 9,307.44GWh last year.

Emerging Markets Consulting senior consultant Ngeth Chou said electricity blackouts in markets are hurting small businesses as they rely on state electricity supplies.

“As we know, market sellers are not able to use their own electricity generators, so market authorities or EDC should try to figure out a solution to the lack of electricity supply as it is a priority for commerce,” he said. “They will struggle in the meantime as they must pay rental fees or loans.”

Boeung Keng Kang Market salon owner Sok Mean said she has already calculated her losses for the month as her business can run only half the day.

“Water and electricity are important for us to operate. It is not only electricity, sometimes there isn’t even water to use for my business,” she said.

“I already know that I cannot afford to pay this month’s rent, I have no idea yet what I will do.”