Export revenue from several of Cambodia’s economic sectors decreased sharply during the first eight months of 2002, and Cambodia is unable to repay interest on foreign aid loans, an economist at the Cambodia Development Research Institute said last week.
According to CDRI’s monthly report of economic indicators, the most hard hit exports are fish and rubber, two of Cambodia’s most lucrative sectors.
Compared with the same period in 2001, this year’s fish exports are down from $6 million to $3.44 million, and rubber exports have fallen from $16 million to $8.2 million.
CDRI economist Kang Chandararot attributed Cambodia’s struggling industries to a variety of factors, including drier weather and a lower regional demand for rubber. Despite a 56 percent rise in the price of rubber, he said, production decreased 20 percent.
“In my opinion, Cambodia’s old rubber trees produce less rubber,” he said Thursday. “And it is my belief that rubber exports next year will not change much.”
He said fish exports are down because excessive fishing and logging have depleted Cambodia’s fishing grounds and affected annual catches. Also, the lack of fish has driven up the prices of meats in domestic markets, the economist said.
Pork, for example, is 21 percent more expensive this year. “Imported pork is now even cheaper than local pork, even after [import] taxes have been paid,” he said.
Kang Chandararot said that the lost income, along with corrupt tax collection and continued government spending, will make it difficult for Cambodia to pay the interest attached to foreign aid loans.
“The reason Cambodia relies heavily on foreign aid is because of a lack of state income. If this situation continues for 10 years, then the government will rely on foreign aid for 10 years,” he said.
In the last decade, Cambodia has received nearly $1.4 billion in direct aid, $686.6 million in grant money and another $687.8 million in loans, according to CDRI and government figures.