Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday the government will fall well short of halving Cambodia’s endemic poverty by 2015.
“The government’s poverty reduction will not meet its goal as fast as it plans,” he said.
The premier made his remarks at the launch of a UN report on the country’s progress in meeting poverty reduction targets. The government committed itself to the UN targets four years ago.
The report showed that the country would “probably” meet only three of the 25 targets that government committed to at the beginning of the new millennium: Slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS, integrating principles of sustainable development into national policy and eliminating the impact of land mines and unexploded ordnance.
The list of bad news in the report was long. Poverty remains widespread, access to education is still hindered, natural resources are degrading at an “accelerating pace,” health and sanitary conditions are “unacceptable” and under-5 mortality rates have not decreased over the past decade.
The UN report said the country will need to depend on outside assistance if any of the goals are to be met.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay criticized the government and the donor community for the country’s poor performance.
“The government does not have the vision to deal with poverty,” he said Wednesday. Donors are also to blame, he added, because “the country will soon have to pay back interest on loans that the corrupt government has borrowed, taking away resources from poor people.”
According to the report, the poverty rate fell just 3 percent from 39 to 36 percent between 1994 and 1999, putting the country on a trajectory to reduce poverty to 28 percent by 2015, still well short of the targeted 19.5 percent.
Though the UN globally calculates the poverty rate at $1 per day, Cambodia’s poverty rate is calculated at about $0.50, said Lay Prohas, secretary of state at the Ministry of Planning. This number is based on how much it would cost to finance a diet of 2,100 calories per day as well as clothing and other basic living expenses.
Though most of the goals are unlikely to be met, UN officials said they are an important way to focus donor money.
“On some level, it’s working,” said Jim Tulloch, head of the World Health Organization office in Phnom Penh. “Either [the attention to the goals] results in new funding or a reallocation of resources.”
Concerning child mortality, Tulloch said the donors have given more money to fighting HIV/AIDS than to the real killers of children—infectious diseases, diarrhea and malnutrition.
“Child survival does not have the same priority it did in the past,” he said.