News

Cambodia Hit Hard By Inflation

Multimedia

Audio

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 prices of rice and other staples have rocketed - 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. Double-digit growth in recent years has created a resurgent middle class, eager to take advantage of new business opportunities.

Phnom Penh and other cities in Cambodia are undergoing a building boom and expensive new cars are everywhere. But while some are prospering, many of the country's poorest people are slipping deeper into poverty.

While the incomes of the poor have remained constant, the prices 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.

Haggling in the market is fierce these days as 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.

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

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," he 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."

Keusters says that the World Food Program is in danger of running out of its remaining rice reserves in a matter of weeks:

"Because of the increasing cost of the food, and the insufficient support we have been receiving from the international and the national donor community, we are going to very much face a risk of stopping our operation within a matter of weeks," Keusters said.

That could have a devastating effect on Cambodia's rural poor, who make up about 80 percent of the population.

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 World Food Program, 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, 46, lives with her sick husband and three young children in a small village in Kompong Speu province north of Phnom Penh. She is the only breadwinner.

She says she sells fruit and bamboo to make a living and that is all she can do to stay alive. She says does not have any cows or rice fields, only an old house. She says it is very difficult to feed her family because the price of food and rice is increasing.

Inflation has become a highly politicized issue in Cambodia. Marchers in a 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," he said. And we want the government to increase salaries for civil servants, wages for workers."

The government says it is doing what it can. On the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen, rice exports were 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 short-term success, economists expect that, as in the rest of the world, prices will continue to rise over the long term. And that - the World Food Program says - could have damaging long-term consequences:

"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," he said. "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."

Most poor rice farmers in Cambodia are expected to run out of their remaining rice stocks by June, at which point they will have to buy rice at the market.

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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs