Report Ranks Cambodia Low

While a recently released world demographic report offered few surprises, some local observers blamed Cambodia’s low international and regional ranking in the report on high government defense spending.

The report by the US-based Pop­ulation Reference Bureau indicated that, in most areas, Cam­bodia ranked at or near the bottom among South­east Asian countries. The statistics were largely consistent with those put forth in a 1998 census, carried out with the assistance of the UN.

Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said she was not surprised by the results of the report and asserted it proves the government is spending too little money on areas like education, public health and rural development.

“I think the problems stem from the fact that 40 percent of the government’s budget is allocated to the military and police,” Chea Vannath said. “The remainder of the pie, if you will, is divided among the various ministries. And very little is left over for other vital areas.”

Moreover, despite efforts in recent years to encourage birth spacing, the country’s birth rate was estimated as the second highest in the region, with 38 births for every 1,000 people. And with 103 infants for every 1,000 births failing to reach the age of one year, the country’s mortality rate was the second highest, with Laos at 104, the report said.

Likewise, Cambodians have the second lowest life expectancy average in Southeast Asia, at 53 years of age. Vietnam’s was estimated at 66, while Thai­land’s was 72, the report said. Laos, at 51, was lowest in the region.

Another commentator said the report might not reflect recent developments. “You have to remember that Cambodia is a rapidly developing society, and if those figures are even two years old, they don’t accurately reflect the current situation,” said Kao Kim Hourn, director of the Cam­bodian Peace and Coopera­tion Institute.



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