Stubborn Gaps for Rich, Poor, Rural, Urban

Despite a drop in poverty in Cambodia in recent years, income disparities between rural and urban households and between the richest and poorest remain stark, according to a new nationwide survey, which found that families in Phnom Penh earn over five times more than rural families.

Last year the average household in Phnom Penh earned $759 per month, while an average rural family made $140 per month, according to the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey 2009 released yesterday by the National Institute of Statistics. On average a Cambodian family earned $184 per month in 2009, the survey found.

Income inequality also remained high, with the bottom 20 percent income group earning only 2 percent of all household income in 2009, while the top 20 percent earned 67 percent of all income, according to the survey, which interviewed 12,000 households nationwide.

Nor Vandy, a researcher at National Institute of Statistics, said that although the NIS lacked data to determine if the income gap between households had grown in recent years, he believed that “in general the rural-urban income gap has increased since 2004 or 2007” surveys.

Mr Vandy said he lacked sufficient to data to determine if income inequality between bottom and top income groups had also increased.

He added the survey did not include data from enterprises and therefore the income from businessmen in urban areas.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, chair of the National Assembly’s banking and finance commission, acknowledged the survey’s findings on income disparities and said it was a government priority to close the gap between rural and urban incomes.

“The government has a problem because GDP differs [geographically]. There is a large gap between city people and rural people,” he said. “The government is pushing for a better living for people in the rural areas.”

Kang Chandararot, director of the Cambodia Institute of Development Study, said he was hopeful rural income could develop and reduce the wealth gap with urban areas.

“I think the gap between the poor and the rich is declining,” Mr Chandararot said.

“In 2009 to 2010, the rural people suffered less than the urban people. In combination with the improved infrastructure and business environment in rural areas, I think rural income will improve the coming years.”

According to a researcher at the National Committee for Subnational Democratic Development, income inequality between the bottom and the top income groups in Cambodia had grown between 2004 and 2007, while this inequality has decreased slightly since 2008.

The researcher, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said that although poverty levels had dropped at a “quite impressive rate” from about 32 percent in 2003 to around 27 percent in 2009, most of this income growth had probably been concentrated in urban areas, where people had increased access to services such as finance.


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