Kyodo News Service
Amid Cambodia's pride in its economic growth over the last three years, the gap between the country's urban areas and the rural poor continues to grow, according to a report released Thursday.
"Of the one-third of the country's population that lives below the poverty line, 90 percent live and work in rural areas. Most worrisome, the gap in living standard between the large numbers of rural poor and urban elites has continued to widen rapidly, as has the gap between the rural poor and a minority of rural rich," according to the report, "Expanding Choices for Rural People," by Cambodia's Ministry's of Planning and the U.N. Development Program.
In many recent forums, Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly said: "Clearly, despite major challenges faced by the regional and global economy and the unfavorable natural disasters in the country, Cambodia has achieved remarkable macroeconomic stability and economic progress, with robust economic growth reaching unprecedented rates on average of 11.4 percent per annum in the last three years."
"This was one of the highest growth rates in the emerging economies in Asia. As a result, the average per capita income almost doubled from $288 in 2000 to $513 in 2006," he has said.
But the report provides a different look at the key issues related to "equitable and sustainable" rural growth, bringing together issues of land, agriculture, energy, social services and governance.
It also gives new insights and analyses into the key issues facing rural Cambodians, and includes case studies highlighting the impact rural development has on individuals.
U.N. Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Douglas Gardner noted at the launching of the report that rural development is "an extremely pertinent issue, particularly as three out of four Cambodians work in agriculture.
"Poverty in rural areas currently stands at around 39 percent, compared with 5 percent in Phnom Penh," Gardner added.
The report shows Cambodia is ranked 129th out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index 2006.
And compared to 12 selected low-and-middle-income Asian countries, including ASEAN minus Singapore,
Cambodia ranked in the bottom four, with only Bangladesh, Laos and Nepal ranked lower.
Bangladesh and Nepal are very densely populated countries suffering from weak governance, and Laos and Nepal face the considerable challenges of being landlocked, the report notes.
"We sincerely hope that this report will contribute to policy formulation and implementation in the critical area of human development in rural Cambodia," Cambodia's Senior Minister and Minister of Planning Chhay Than said at event releasing the report.
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