News

    Inflation Hits Cambodia

    As in other developing countries from Egypt to Haiti, soaring inflation has recently emerged as a threat to Cambodia's hard won social stability. While wages have remained low, the price of rice and other staples have skyrocketed pushing millions deeper into poverty. While the Cambodian government says it is doing its best to curb the worst effects of inflation, opposition politicians say it is not doing enough. Rory Byrne reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

    On the face of it, Cambodia's economy is doing well.

    Phnom Penh, the nation's capital, is undergoing a building boom which is changing the face of the city.

    Expensive new cars fill the city's streets as a resurgent middle class has emerged to take advantage of new business opportunities.

    But while some are prospering, many of the country's poorest people are slipping deeper into poverty. The reason is inflation.

    While the incomes of the poor have remained constant, the price of food and other staples have risen dramatically.

    Cambodia's annualized rate of food inflation hit 24 percent last month, the highest in almost a decade, and one of the highest in Southeast Asia.

    The price of staple goods has fluctuated week by week. Prices for pork, chicken, beef, and prahok - a pungent fish paste that is the main source of protein for millions of poor Cambodians - have all jumped.  

    "Last month I sold a kilo of prahok for 60 cents but today it costs a $1.50,” the market keeper said.

    "Last week I sold beef for $1.25, but today it costs $2.00,” the market keeper added. "One kilo of dried fish now costs $6.00. Last week it was $5.00.”

    The prices of non food items -- such as gasoline and cooking gas --  have also increased, adding to the country's inflation woes.

    But it is the high cost of rice that is causing the most concern, according to the World Food Program which feeds almost a million poor Cambodians. 

    Thomas Keusters, the WFP's Country Representative in Cambodia, says the high cost of rice on the world market has led many growers to export their crop, driving up the domestic cost of the grain.

    "There are not that many big exporters of rice so obviously those who are producing rice in this country see a benefit of seeing the rice going out of the country,” Keusters said. “Secondly, in general I think there has been an increase in the cost of producing rice, so by definition, people are producing, or selling rice more expensively."

    He adds with money running out, the WFP is in danger of running out of its remaining rice reserves in a matter of weeks:

    Cambodia's rural poor, who make up over 80 percent of the population, are particularly at risk from inflation.

    Many are poor rice farmers who only grow enough rice to feed themselves and their families for half the year 

    For the rest of the year they rely on handouts from the WFP, or they harvest wild plants and fruits from the forest which they sell to buy rice. High prices at the market mean that they cannot buy enough to feed their families.

    Chanmom lives with her family in a small village in Kompong Speu province north of Phnom Penh.

    "I sell wild fruit and bamboo to make a living. That is all I can do. If there is no bamboo or fruit I have nothing. That's all I can do to stay alive. I don't have any cows or rice fields only this old house. Now it is very difficult for me to feed my family because the price of food and rice is increasing," she said. 

    With a general election in July, inflation has become a highly politicized issue in Cambodia. Marchers in this recent demonstration organized by the main opposition party in Phnom Penh accused the government of not doing enough to curb soaring prices.

    Sam Rainsey is the leader of the main opposition Sam Rainsey Party. "We want the government to take appropriate measures to stop or to curb inflation. And we want the government to increase salaries for civil servants, wages for workers," Rainsey said.  

    For its part, the government says it is doing what it can. On the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen, rice exports have been banned for two months while tons of surplus rice were released onto the market at reduced prices.

    A ban on pig imports was also lifted in a bid to lower pork prices.

    While these measures have had some success, experts expect that, as in the rest of the world, prices here will continue to rise over the long term. And that - the World Food Program says - could have damaging long term consequences,” he said. 

    "A lot of people who are now on the verge of surviving are going to face even more difficulties to make ends meet and really survive. This is condemning possibly a whole lot of generations because people will not go to school, people will not go into productive activities, because they will really be constrained by their search for food," Keusters said.

    Experts say that most poor rice farmers in Cambodia will run out of their remaining rice stocks by June at which point they will have to buy rice at the market. That means that the worst effects of high inflation on the poor may be yet to come.

     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora