I would like to express my sincere appreciation of the year review produced most
recently by the Asian Development Bank's Cambodia Resident Mission (Phnom Penh Post,
vol 13, no 3).
The message conveyed by the review is very clear: the ADB is not achieving its poverty
reduction targets in Cambodia, despite having invested US$775 million here since
1992. The ADB acknowledges that an estimated 35-to-40 percent of the population continues
to live below the poverty line, which shows virtually no progress over the past ten
Actually, poverty has worsened if we take into account the fact that the 'poverty
line' has been discreetly lowered from a revenue of $1 per day to 50c per day, which
is now very close to the "starvation line".
It is time the ADB revised its development approach for Cambodia. Over the past ten
years, it has produced impressive expert reports and statements of good intention.
But the ADB has addressed none of the fundamental problems facing this country:
* Rampant corruption that every year deprives the state of a revenue amount higher
than international assistance the country receives annually.
* Tragic and unabated deforestation that repeatedly causes devastating ecological
disasters and deprives rural communities of their traditional livelihoods.
* A feudalistic type of land distribution in a country where 80 percent of the land
is, in theory, still owned by the state. In fact it is controlled by a small and
exclusive group of officials of the ruling party and their business cronies, resulting
in an increasing number of landless farmers.
I know the ADB, like other international financial institutions as well as donor
countries that advocate reforms, has faced inertia on the part of a Cambodian government
that has successfully striven to defend vested interests and preserve the anti-poor
From this point of view, the current political deadlock may be a blessing in disguise,
in that it may hopefully and shortly lead to the formation of a new government that
is more determined and more prepared to combat corruption and implement the fundamental
reforms Cambodia needs.
Meanwhile, I would like to advise you that, with no National Assembly functioning,
the current Phnom Penh caretaker government is not entitled to commit Cambodia. It
has been labelled "illegal and unconstitutional" by King Norodom Sihanouk.
Therefore I urge the ADB to put on hold any agreement that the duly elected representatives
of the Cambodian people have yet to scrutinise and approve.
Donor countries and international financial institutions are supposed to uphold the
rule of law, which is the basis of good governance that is necessary for poverty
Sam Rainsy, MP - Phnom Penh