POVERTY IN CAMBODIA

 “Being poor is not just about having enough food to eat, …Rather being poor is also about being ignorant, to have people look down on you, and to not be able to support your own family. …”,

Cambodia is known as one of the world poorest countries. According to the UNDP, Human Development Index Report in 2009; Cambodia ranks 137th out of 182 countries over the world. Annual per capita income is 256$ in 1999. It is estimated to be around 300$ today. An approximately 36% of the population lives below the basic needs poverty line. In addition, poverty rate in the rural areas is 40%, four times as high as Phnom Penh, which is only 10%.

Among other factors prolonged civil conflict during three past decades, internal displacement and discriminatory development processes are the main causes of poverty in Cambodia. It is now widely recognized that poverty is a multidimensional problem and should be viewed in a broader context than merely in terms of low levels of consumption and income. Lack of food, uncertainties about access to natural resources, powerlessness and hopelessness, social exclusion, lack of education, etc. are all dimensions of poverty. Within Cambodia these were encapsulated in the Cambodia Participatory Poverty Assessment published by the Asian Development Bank in 2001

Poverty in Cambodia is widespread with some 36 percent of the Cambodian population living below the poverty line of US$0.46-0.63 at the current exchange rate. Generally, people move in and out of poverty, which makes definition of poverty lines and better knowledge about cyclical, seasonal and unexpected shocks important. Current level of poverty largely results from high population growth, inadequate opportunities, low capabilities, insecurity, exclusion, and vulnerability. Therefore, before we technically measure poverty we should first and foremost understand the multidimensional nature of poverty. For the moment we focus in turn on lack of opportunities, lack of capabilities, social exclusion, and vulnerability in the sections that follow.

Poverty was defined as a deprivation of common necessary that determine the quality of life or standard of living of people, including food, cloth, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment and less access to the health. There are two type of poverty “Absolutely poverty” and “Relative poverty”.

Absolutely poverty is defined as a people that living below the poverty line “Not fit to the basic need/standard of living”. At current prices, the total poverty line in 2004 was estimated at 2351 Riel (US$ 0.59) in Phnom Penh, 1952 Riel (US$ 0.49) in other urban areas and 1753 Riel (US$ 0.44) in rural areas.

Relative poverty are defined as a poor people live in the country that compare to the poverty in the country, normally, they can earn less than 2 dollar per day, but not living in absolutely poverty.

Poverty may affect individuals or groups of people living in the society in Cambodia, and is not confined to the third nation country like our country. The main cause of poverty in Cambodia was characterized by low income, low consumption, few assets, poor nutritional status, starvation, low educational attainment, illiteracy and less capacity, less access to public services including school and health services, less access to economic opportunities, high population grow, physical weakness of household, lack of contacts in society, little participation in decision making or in society, vulnerability and instability of political processes.

Few Assets: most of poor people are living in rural areas and most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but most of them have few assets and landless. Landlessness is one of the main cause of poverty in Cambodia, because all the poor are depend on agriculture, so they could not generate money or get income if they have no land to do farming.

Low Income: Because of the poor have no ability to access education and health care system, so they are lack of opportunity to get employment in the city. They can only work in the primary sector; they have no ability to work in the secondary and tertiary sector. So they can only apply for worker or garment worker that provide less salary. On the other hand, in rural areas their in no sustain for the poor, if they depend on only natural resources and the most important, they have dependency people in their family (old men or women and children). So, they need to migrate to other place to find a job to support their livelihood.

Low Education attainment: Education in Cambodia is one of the worst in the world because there is not enough teacher, school, in rural areas or some urban; the school is far away from their house, and otherwise some family is poor, they are inability to afford school fee for their children, so they let their children go to work out side for support their living. It is the main cause that mad children cannot go to school, and poverty remains with the children of the poor to take time off from work for their education. According to Cambodian Communities out of Crisis, the adult literacy rate for Cambodian men is 85.1% and women is only 70.9%

Educational levels completed by literate persons aged 25 years and over are“No educational level: 3.2%, Primary not completed: 47.2%, Primary: 26.8%,

Lower Secondary: 18.8%, Secondary/Diploma: 2.2%,

Beyond Secondary: 1.8%”

Illiteracy and Lack of Capacity: as mentioned above in Educational level, in rural areas, there is low rate of enrollment, because of their parent are inability to afford school fee for their children. A lot of children drop out from school for work in order to get more income for support their family or their livelihood. It’s the main cause that leads the Cambodian people into a deeply poverty.  Lack of capabilities always makes it impossible for the poor people to move out of poverty.

 Starvation: It is always happened to the people lived in rural areas. Because of low education and inabilities to work for generate money for support their life. There are about 35% living below poverty line, they have no ability to achieve the basic need. They can earn only less than 1$ per day and some families get nothing per day. So their life depend on the natural resources “fishery, agriculture, forestry, landmine, etc.”, if the natural resources faced with the problem, so the poor will face with starvation too.

Poor nutrition: food is really important for the human, but in the other urban or rural the people are getting less food consumption. Low/poor nutrition is really affected to the children; the brain will not develop and children may get sick because of inability of their parent that could not feed them enough food. Children are the most important resources for the country in the future, but unfortunately, they are always live without enough food. Because they depending on natural resources, if the natural resources not provide them good, so they will get less food too.

Low consumption: In rural areas, the average of consumption for the poor is less than $1.00 per day. It’s really far different from the average of people living in Phnom Penh. It’s really effect to their families, because some families have a lot of independency people (many children and old men or women).

Inability to access health care: The poor always tend to have worse health. The Cambodian poor are holding a heavy burden of bad health and diseases. The poor are likely to live within unhygienic; they are less understanding about good health and hygiene, and less likely to have the resources to ensure healthy life-styles, e.g. water, sanitation, foods, prophylaxis, etc. The primary causes of death for the general population are malaria, acute respiratory infection, tuberculosis, diarrhea and dengue fever. HIV/AIDS is also a main factor that contributes to low life expectancy among Cambodian citizens. Life expectancy at birth is estimated at only 57 years, about 13 years less than the life expectancy average in the region

No saving and investment in economic opportunity: 35% of Cambodian people are poor; it is hard for them to generate profit and savings for investment. Usually, the investment rate of low income countries is lower than that of any other group of countries. This low rate of investment, in turn, contributes to the low rate of economic growth. In other words, if there is no saving, there is no investment. Investment will help many people have opportunity to work, but if no or les investment, it will leads to less employment opportunities in the society.

Physical weakness of household: according to the statistic of UNDP, there are children 51 dependency ratio in 2010 and 5.6 of old age dependency ratio in 2007. In rural area there are many families have dependency people in the families. They need to find money for supporting there dependency people in the families.

Instability of political and Corruption: it is the main cause that leads the society to the worse. It’s the abuse of public position for personal gain or for the benefit of an individual or group to whom one owes allegiance. Corruption occurs when a public official accepts, solicits, or extorts a payment, or when private agents offer a payment to circumvent the law for competitive or personal interest. Corruption is a two-way process, involving members of both the public and private sector, or a “giver” and a “taker” who are engaged in illegal, illegitimate and unethical action. There are many type of corruption form, it take a variety of forms such bribery, nepotism, patronage, theft of state assets, evasion of taxes, diversion of revenue and electoral fraud. The theft of state assets by officials in charged of the stewardship, and manipulation or violation of electoral laws regarding campaign finance and voting is also considered as corruption.

High Population Growth: It refers to the number of population that increases by time to time. The higher population growths contribute to poverty. And the end of cause is population growth that populations of poorest countries grow much faster than those of the developed. This is because they are lack of understanding of the important of birth control or they are unwilling to practice birth control. Too much population growth creates dependency in their families.

Lack of contacts: The poor people living in poverty line are less contacts or miss a lot of information in the society. Because most of them are uneducated and some busy with their farm, they don’t understand about the advantage of information. So the flow of information in the society is missed.