David Lempert cannot have too many friends, especially in Cambodia, with a "crooked"
conclusion that a civil war awaits the country ("Foreign aid: Creating Conditions
for the Next Civil War," Post, December 29, 2007).
Few can see beyond the current rosy picture of the economy which is based on, as
Lempert puts it, exploitation and selling off resources, rather than sustainable
development. It is easy to dismiss Lempert's thesis with the recent discovery of
oil and gas reserves and other potential discoveries that can last the country for
some time - too long to appreciate the implications. It seems the exploitation and
sale of assets will continue without much consideration given to Lempert's concerns.
The best Lempert and his school of thought can hope for is that the trickle effect
will do the job of spreading the economic benefits to the poor majority fast enough
to avert the civil war.
It is ironic that water management, which gave Cambodia the Angkor temples, could
now take them away. The irrigation policy of Khmer leaders in the first millennium
pushed Cambodia to its peak, leaving those glorious temples. They are now in danger
of collapsing due to water mismanagement in Siem Reap City in the past decade. The
ground supporting Angkor becomes brittle as the deep underground water has been heavily
pumped to cater for the anarchic tourism development in the city.
I take my hat off to Dr Lempert. - Bun Buno, Australia