With political analysts fingering the economy as a key issue in this year’s national elections, both Prime Minister Hun Sen and Finance Minister Keat Chhon have highlighted what they say is the government’s good economic record in recent days.
Speaking at the National Assembly on Wednesday, Keat Chhon said the average annual income had increased almost 9 percent in the country, increasing from an average annual income of $613 in 2006 to $689 in 2007.
Keat Chhon said the growing incomes would mean a 2 percent decrease in those living below the poverty line in 2008.
Cambodia’s poverty rate, the percentage of the population living on less than $0.45 per day, was estimated by the World Bank at 35 percent of the population in 2004.
“We are sharing the economic growth equally,” Keat Chhon said. The government has also been collecting more tax revenues, he added.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said by telephone Wednesday that any increase in per capita income is being offset by high rates of inflation.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen told the Assembly that GDP is on course to increase more than 10 percent in 2008, up from 9.6 percent in 2007. Hun Sen said the continuing increase in the price of land was also helping the economy.
“In the past people were quick to sell their land…but now they are holding on to it and making a profit when they do sell it,” he said. “Everything is stable.”
But SRP leader Sam Rainsy said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the government’s economic figures looked good on paper but did not reflect the reality of everyday life for Cambodians.
If revenues have increased, why is the government not delivering more on public services and increasing pay for civil servants, Sam Rainsy asked.
“Conditions have not improved for the majority of people here who are still poor,” he added.