New banking and investment laws by '94
The promise by Cambodia's new government to fundamentally transform the economy is
sending shudders through the investment community. Some contracts with foreign investors
signed with the previous administration are likely to be canceled amid charges that
the government is motivated by political revenge.
Senior government officials are embarking on a sound policy to eliminate the remnants
of Cambodia's previously centralized economy, analysts say, after a new leadership
trained in the West has taken control of virtually all key financial and economic
portfolios in recent weeks.
The new government, announced earlier this month, turned over most of the financial
and economic policy portfolios to the Royalist FUNCINPEC party.
World Bank and Asian Development Bank officials are currently in Phnom Penh advising
the new government as it rewrites existing laws.
Economy and Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, a French-trained economist, vowed that "the
first real budget in 20 years" would be submitted by January and that by 1995
a stringent budget, in line with IMF and World Bank austerity programs, would be
NGOs begin a new chapter
Cambodia's army of aid workers is facing huge tasks and, according to some forecasts,
changed roles amid lawlessness on Phnom Penh's streets and the departure of UNTAC.
Despite extensive UN-initiated programs during the 18-month UNTAC period, NGOs point
to a mountain of remaining social, health and infrastructure problems. The long list
shows that UNTAC's work may be finished but NGOs have just began another chapter
of a very long book.
Several areas need urgent attention post-UNTAC. These include an estimated 6 to 10
million mines, the thousands of families still in desperate need of permanent homes,
massive social problems in reintegrating hundreds of thousands of recently repatriated
people, and the country's lamentable health system.
Representatives from World Vision International and Save the Children Fund Australia
also forecast changed roles for NGOs as bilateral money, once channeled through NGOs
during Cambodia's re-emergence from isolation, is allocated directly to the government
and well-established UN agencies.
Route 4 Rehab
The US Agency for International Development has agreed to provide $24 million to
rebuild Route 4, the main highway linking Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, Cambodia's
Government officials in Phnom Penh are elated with the grant as they expect that
a rehabilitated Route 4 will boost investor confidence and advance plans to develop
a duty-free zone in Sihanoukville. It is also expected to encourage the growth of
export-oriented industries in Phnom Penh. Roadwork may begin as early as January
Riel rises against dollar
The riel appreciated significantly last week against the US dollar in what Minister
of Finance and Economics Sam Rainsy says is a reflection of "political stability"
in the country. The riel, which had been trading at between 2,600 and 2,700 per dollar
for several months, suddenly dropped to 2,000 per dollar before leveling off at 2,100
on Nov 16.
The riel's rise also affected prices on imported goods such as gasoline and cigarettes.
The price of a liter of gasoline dropped from 600 to 500 riels overnight. Rainsy
attributed political stability as the main factor of this "automatic drop"
which would help the living conditions of the majority.
Mother Theresa in Phnom Penh
The Albanian-born Nobel Peace Prize winner paid a brief visit to the capital from
November 10 to 12 after a five-day stay in Hanoi. This was her second visit to the
country and included calls on Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Foreign Minister
Norodom Sirivuth. The world-renowned "friend of all the poor" spent most
of her time with her nine fellow Sisters of Charity who maintain two communities
- one in Phnom Penh on Monivong Blvd and a second in Chan Chao past the airport.
Problems lie in the pipes
Treated water from the rotting Phnom Penh municipal water system can be contaminated
just 100 meters from the pumping station because the pipes are fractured.
Last year, UNDP and the World Bank took over responsibility for the city's water
from Oxfam. The lack of technical expertise has made it difficult to maintain or
convert the system. Efforts have only just begun to repair the pipe network.
Officials estimate that only 16 percent of Phnom Penh residents have access to potable
water. The figure for the provinces is 18 percent.
Over the last two years France has helped the capital with repairs to the tanks and
water station, and earlier this year the Japanese International Cooperation Agency
(JICA) started surveying the water needs of the city with a view to designing a new