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Forgive the debt

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong has called on developed countries to cancel the debts of poorer nations in order to improve the prospects of achieving a Millennium Development Goal to reduce worldwide poverty by half by 2015.

Speaking on the second day of an international MDG summit at United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday, Hor Namhong said that the “burden of debt reimbursement” presented a “major hurdle” for less developed countries seeking to meet MDG targets. He said their ability to fund development projects, “especially in the social sectors”, was severely curtailed by such debts.

“More serious consideration should ... be given to relieving poor countries of their debt burden, thus increasing their financial resources to fund essential development projects to meet the MDGs,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama today at the ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in New York, said last week that he intended to ask Obama to cancel an estimated US$317 million in debts accrued by the Lon Nol regime in the 1970s.

US officials have indicated that America is unlikely to cancel the debt.

Hor Namhong said Tuesday that, despite the challenges it faces as a less developed country, Cambodia is on track to meet targets to reduce poverty, lower child mortality rates and combat HIV/AIDS.

“According to the recent study made by the Overseas Development Institute and the UN Millennium Campaigns, Cambodia is listed among 20 countries making the most absolute progress on MDGs and on track to meet the target of halving poverty by 2015,” he said.

Earlier this week, the government released a statement that the number of people living under the poverty line had dropped from 50 percent in 1993 to 27.3 percent in 2010.

According to the statement, Cambodia expects to exceed the international target and instead achieve a national
goal to reduce the number of people living in poverty to 19.5 percent by 2015.

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