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Cambodia to face worst increase in poverty in Asia-Pacific

Cambodia to face worst increase in poverty in Asia-Pacific

A newly-released World Bank report says Cambodia will be the

hardest-hit country in the region as the global economic crisis

continues to wreak havoc.

Photo by:

Tracey Shelton

CAMBODIA is set to be the country hardest hit this year by the global

economic crisis in the Asia-Pacific region, the World Bank said today,

placing the Kingdom among only four countries projected "to experience

absolute increases in poverty".

In a report released today, the bank said that Cambodia -

along with Malaysia, Thailand and East Timor - would see contractions

in per capita income and therefore increased poverty, noting that the

Kingdom's weaker GDP growth, which the bank again revised downwards to

-1 percent for 2009, would slow poverty reduction across the region.

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

It projected 200,000 additional people in the Kingdom this year would

be pushed below the poverty line - defined by the bank as US$1.25 a day

- compared to East Timor, where a further 25,000 were forecast to sink

into poverty.

The World Bank in February said that Cambodia had reduced

poverty from 45 percent to 50 percent in 1993-1994 - a figure that

improved to around 30 percent by 2007.

The report also said that Cambodia would see the greatest GDP growth reversal in the region.

"An expansion of 10.2 percent in 2007 stands in stark contrast to a contraction of 1 percent projected for 2009," it said.

"The difference (11.7 percent) over two years is the largest in

the region, and arises from a sudden drop in garment exports and

tourist arrivals."

Neighbouring Thailand is projected to see the next biggest

reversal at -7.6 percent over the same period, followed by Malaysia

with -7.3 percent. GDP growth in developing East Asia, as a region,

will see a -6.1 percent reversal in the same period.

The World Bank's growth projection for Cambodia is among the

lowest so far after the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit

forecast a 3 percent contraction in 2009 in its March outlook.

The International Monetary Fund last month estimated -0.5

percent growth and the Asian Development Bank last week said Cambodia's

growth would slow to 2.5 percent.

The World Bank blamed a narrow economic base and over-dependency on exports for the country's projected economic reversal.

"The economy is affected by simultaneous declines in export

orders for garments (which account for almost four-fifths of exports,

and most of the shipments are to the US), a drop in construction, a

collapse in private capital inflows and a sharp slowdown in tourist

arrivals," it said.

"Credit growth that helped fuel the earlier expansion, including in real estate, has slowed sharply."

The World Bank noted that Cambodia had taken a number of

measures to fight the financial crisis, including tax holidays until

2012 for foreign direct investors and larger aid for food supplies.

"Efforts are underway to support agricultural producers and provide

trade financing to exporters," it added.

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