The National Assembly on Tuesday voted to approve the national development planning strategy for 2006 to 2010, which predicts that the nation’s unemployment rate will dwindle to less than four percent by the end of the decade.
The law, which also predicts that the number of those living below the poverty line will fall to 25 percent of the population, passed with 87 of 95 parliamentary votes.
Minister of Planning Chhay Than said the strategy aims to increase public and private foreign investment in rural areas and small and medium-sized enterprises.
“When the investment goes into rural provinces, their economies will grow,” Chhay Than said of the law, which was drafted in cooperation with the International Labor Organization and Asian Development Bank. Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan questioned whether the plan could ever be implemented effectively, noting that the 2001-to-2005 plan failed to achieve its goal of land redistribution to impoverished, landless villagers.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said the plan would never achieve its goals.
“The strategy is good on paper only,” he said.
Chhay Than estimated that 28 percent of the population currently lives below the poverty line, mostly in rural areas, compared to 38 percent in 1993. He claimed that only four percent of the population is unemployed, but Sam Rainsy said that figure was inaccurate.
“If in Cambodia unemployment is only four percent, it is better than the US, Japan and France,” Sam Rainsy said. “Don’t regard the prostitutes and beggars as also having employment,” he said.
Much of Cambodia’s recent economic growth depended on the exploitation of limited natural resources, he added.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the plan was ambitious but realistic, adding that optimism attracts needed foreign funding.
“I hope that by 2010 unemployment and poverty will be reduced as per the plan,” he said. “We should not be ashamed. The more [money] we can borrow, the better.”