Survey Phnom Penh Among Least Liveable Cities

A new survey assessing the “quality of life” in 127 cities has ranked Phnom Penh as one of the world’s worst places to live, two places behind Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and just a few places ahead of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, which was at the very bottom of the list.

The survey, carried out by The Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the Economist Group that publishes the magazine The Econo­mist, ranked Phnom Penh number 122 out of 127 cities.

Canada’s Vancouver was rated the world’s best place to live, while Bangkok came in at number 89 and Ho Chi Minh City was ranked 111th.

The results, which do not in­clude war-torn Kabul and Bagh­dad, were announced in a statement Tuesday.

The 127 cities were assessed on their stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure, and were awarded marks ranging from 0 to 100. A score of 0 means the quality of life in a city is exceptional, while 100 means it is intolerable.

According to the report, a score over 50 indicates the city has “severe restrictions on lifestyle.” Phnom Penh notched a score of 55, which, according to the report, indicates that “extreme difficulties are faced” by people living here.

The survey ranked Phnom Penh poorly in quality of public healthcare, availability of consumer goods and services, prevalence of petty crime and general public education.

Phnom Penh Municipal Depu­ty Governor Sisowath Phanuroth des­­­cribed the survey’s analysis as “deeply unfair,” accusing it of failing to take into account Phnom Penh’s history and its recent prog­ress.

“Cambodia started with nothing. With empty hands, and see where we are today just a few decades after the Pol Pot regime,” he said.

“Even in Zimbabwe they had more time to develop,” he added.

Electricity, new roads and running water installed in the city during just a few years of stability prove the progress made by the municipality, he said.

“We are not yet a modern city but what is important to point out is that we are making progress day by day. What you see in Phnom Penh today is the fruit of full development in only seven or eight years,” he said.

Kith Meng of the Royal Group of companies, who is president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Com­­merce, also said he thought the survey was inaccurate, adding that businessmen wanting to operate in Phnom Penh would ignore the negative publicity.

“As far as I’m concerned Phnom Penh is a great place to live,” he said. “My slogan for Phnom Penh is that it is the land of opportunities.”

Ho Vandy, president of the Cam­­bodian Association of Travel Agents, said that the survey would damage Cambodia’s reputation.

“It will affect the image of Cam­bodia and keep investors from coming here,” he said.

“The government is implementing the laws in Cambodia and they should take care of this,” he ad­ded.

Tourism Minister Lay Prohas, how­ever, said the survey would not affect tourism significantly.

“My suggestion is that City Hall do their very best to improve the image of Phnom Penh,” the minister said.

“We recognize that there is a problem with infrastructure and a problem with crime but it is a very beautiful, charming and fun place to live,” he said.

Standing in the Foreign Corres­pondents’ Club, 54-year-old Irish tourist Paula Jones said that she could not imagine living in Phnom Penh.

“I suppose being a Westerner I don’t know how I would cope with the power going out and all those things,” she said. “It would be okay if you had a lot of money but for the poor struggling every day it must be hard.”

She added that she known very little about the city before visiting, but added: “[I knew] that it was very poor, and I heard that you have to be careful and that many people carry guns.”

Despite the bad rap, she said her stay in the city had been very pleasant.

Chour Sounginh, a member of staff at Mekong Bank, said the poor rating surprised her, as Phnom Penh was far better now than before.

“Before it was not safe but today it is a lot better,” she said. “I’m very surprised. I never thought my city would be one of the worst.”

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