Economic Gains Aren’t Helping Poor, UN Says

The UN Development Pro­gramme’s regional chief called Cambodia’s economy one of the “best performing” developing coun­tries in the region and praised the government’s commitment to poverty reduction Sat­ur­day, though observers noted that economic gains have not  translated into better living conditions for most of the country’s poor.

With an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 6.7 percent between 1993 and 2002, Cambodia is “certainly one of the best performing [least developed countries] in the region and possibly the world,” said Hafiz Pasha, Asia and Pacific regional bureau director for the UNDP.

However, “I don’t think you see that link yet” between growth and poverty reduction, he said.

Despite a recently released UNDP report that noted reduced per capita spending, rising infant mortality and a growing gap be­tween rich and poor over the past decade, the country’s quality of life indicators are “moving up—perhaps not moving up as fast as they might,” Pasha said.

Public spending is among the lowest in the region, he said. In the health sector particularly, “under-utilization” of funds has ham­pered some public health ef­forts, an observation echoed Sun­day by World Health Organ­iza­tion Country Represen­tative Jim Tulloch. “There hasn’t been any real progress in child mortality reduction in the last decade,” he said.

The government has made infrastructure gains like bridges and roads, with little improvement in health or education, said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development.

“I think for the future, the government should focus more on the health and well being of the people,” she said Sunday.

 

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