Population control and rural development will be key elements in reducing poverty in Cambodian society in coming decades, a prominent economist said Wednesday.
MC Madhavan, a former World Bank economist now at San Diego State University in the US state of California, said Cambodian women give birth to an average of five or six children. That means 225,000 new people are growing into adulthood and searching for work each year, contributing to unemployment and social tension, Madhavan told the Cambodian Club of Journalists.
The government should encourage contraceptive use, he said. About 13 percent of sexually active Cambodians now use birth control. A lower birth rate would free up money for development that is now used to feed, clothe and school children and other dependents, he said.
Economic growth in the past decade has benefited city-dwellers while rural residents have been left behind, Madhavan said.
Factory workers are five times more productive than farmers in terms of value added to the economy, he said. More than 3 million hectares of land is uncultivated.
For farmers to be more productive, rural roads must be improved so that they can get their products to market, he said. More farmers must diversify their crops beyond rice into vegetables, nuts and other products better suited for export.
Moreover, the government must provide credit institutions so farmers can afford to buy seeds, fertilizer and irrigation equipment.