Prime Minister Hun Sen approved the recent suspension of a monthly publication of inflation statistics, which at their current high rate could unsettle the public, CPP First Vice President Nguon Nhel said Monday.
According to the National Institute of Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, which was last published in early March, domestic inflation rose by 18.7 percent from January 2007 to January 2008.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] does not want to have to show the monthly [CPI] publication,” Nguon Nhel said by telephone Monday. “People in Cambodia, they think about the inflation differently from [people in other countries.] People will be concerned. Some political parties will use this as a chance to attack the government.”
Reports of high prices reflected badly on the government, he said, adding that inflation measurements needed to be “more accurate.”
Minister of Planning Chhay Than—whose department of statistics compiles the CPI—requested the suspension, and Hun Sen approved it, Nguon Nhel added.
Chhay Than denied any political motive for suspending publication of the inflation figures, but he said a new CPI report will be released after the July 27 election.
“This is not a political issue. It is not the government’s intention to hide inflation,” he said Monday.
Chhay Than said that the government is still calculating the CPI every month but would not release it publicly until after the conclusion of meetings by an inter-ministerial committee, which is reviewing the methodology used to assess price changes.
The current methodology was updated earlier this year, but government officials, including the ministries of Planning and Finance, questioned the accuracy of the new figures.
Mu Sochua, SRP deputy secretary-general, said that the current high inflation and the withholding of statistics were signs of bad governance. “It’s not a transparent government. It’s a government that is not accountable to the people,” Mu Sochua said by telephone.
“The prime minister underestimates the public,” she added.
Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said that high inflation is bad news but the government should not shy away from releasing such information to the public.
“It really depends on [the] attitude of the government…whether they want to avoid pressure from bad news or they can face it and deal with it convincingly,” he said.