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Poverty set to rise, says report

World Bank says crisis will add 200,000 more poor this year.

CAMBODIA will see an additional 200,000 people pushed below the poverty line this year, the World Bank said in a new report released Tuesday, which would make it the worst affected in the region.

Titled "Battling the Forces of Global Recession", the report says that only three other countries in the East Asia and Pacific region are projected

to see an absolute increase in the number of poor  - Thailand, Malaysia and East Timor.

"Cambodia is the country with the largest projected increase in the number of poor people," the report said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen acknowledged on Monday that Cambodia was struggling to meet its obligations under  the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by 1 percent per year.

"Should the UN change the Millennium Development Goal or not?" the prime minister asked. "We have to try to achieve it because it's a goal to reduce poverty ... but due to the crisis ... people who have gotten the better of the poverty line [previously] will fall back below it."

In a video conference in Tokyo to coincide with the launch of the report, the World Bank's regional chief economist for East Asia and Pacific,

Vikram Nehru, said that countries like Cambodia had to prioritise public spending to minimise the effects of the financial crisis on the poor.

"The things to focus on are unemployment and poverty," he said.

East Timor was projected to be the next worst affected with 25,000 people forecast to fall below an income of US$1.25 a day, the level set by the World Bank as the poverty line.

Previously the World Bank used the Cambodian government's benchmark of $0.60 to calculate levels of poverty, which meant a poverty level of 30.1 percent in the Kingdom in 2007, the bank's senior country economist Stephane Guimbert said on Tuesday.

"In the report we released today, we used a methodology that enables easier comparison across countries, but that is somewhat less relevant to specific country conditions," he said by email.

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