Tourism Minister Thong Khon on August 31 blasted a recent report by The Economist magazine ranking Phnom Penh in the ten least livable cities.
The livability ranking, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit on Aug 22, places Phnom Penh eighth from the bottom, listing it at 125 out of 132 cities, just below Bogota, Colombia (123), and Tehran, Iran (124), and above Dakar, Senegal (126).
Algiers, Algeria, was listed as the least livable city.
“Of the 132 cities surveyed, only nine cities present the worst-case scenario in which most aspects of living quality are severely restricted,” the report stated, listing recreational and cultural activity, traffic congestion and crime rates as criteria for the ranking.
Thong Khon said that the ranking was wrong and did not reflect the real Phnom Penh.
“People are living happily—the city is cleaner than before and tourists can hang out all night and all day,” he said. “We have the Mekong River—no other city is beautiful like this.”
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said that he felt Phnom Penh’s low position in the ranking was accurate and “no surprise.”
“By looking at all aspects—security, space, cleanliness, settings, traffic and sewage—I think that Phnom Penh is a very average city,” he said, adding that Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema should put more focus on these areas.
The Economist list was topped by: Vancouver, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; and Vienna, Austria.
“I think that the Phnom Penh governor should look into these cities and learn from them,” Son Chhay said.
Kep Chuktema could not be reached for comment August 31, but Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said that Son Chhay’s appraisal of Phnom Penh was incorrect.
“[Son Chhay] is with the opposition party, so he cannot talk about things that support the government,” he said, declining to respond directly to the rankings.
Chea Vannath, former president of the Center for Social Development, said that although there are areas for improvement, the Economist’s appraisal of Phnom Penh was a “bit harsh,” and that factors such as the general friendliness of the population and low air pollution levels should be considered.
“[Phnom Penh] has quite a bit of charm,” she said.