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China eyes poverty reduction

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Huang Xilian, the Chinese ambassador to Asean speaks at an Asean-China-UNDP meeting in Siem Reap on Tuesday. Niem Chheng

China eyes poverty reduction

China, which lifted a large number of its almost 1.5 billion citizens from economic hardship over the decades, has pledged to assist Cambodia to alleviate poverty among its people.

The assurance was conveyed by Huang Xilian, the Chinese Ambassador to Asean during the two Asean-China-UNDP (United Nations Development Program) Symposiums that concluded in Siem Reap province on Tuesday.

The assistance, he said, will also be part of China’s contribution to the UN’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asean, which is home to about 630 million people.

Huang said China was prepared to share its 40-year experience of tackling poverty with the Kingdom, which has a poverty rate hovering at some 13.5 per cent.

“We are ready to share our experience with regional countries so that we can deepen our cooperation, [our] pragmatic cooperation in this field and bring a win-win result for everybody,” he said.

In Siem Reap, public and private sector representatives, non-governmental organisations, 10 Asean member countries, UN agencies, and China discussed ways to bring economic progress to communities, and thereby achieve the UN’s sustainable development agenda 2030.

Huang expressed confidence that Cambodia could achieve the SDGs under the leadership of Prime Minister-designate Hun Sen.

“I would like to congratulate the government of Cambodia. We believe under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, we will achieve more in the field of sustainable development and poverty reduction in the years to come.

“China will work closely with Asean and the UNDP to help Cambodia achieve its sustainable development goals and poverty eradication,” he reiterated.

Foreign Affairs Ministry Under-Secretary Kan Pharidh, who was present at the symposium, said the SDGs were in line with the government’s strategies that were put in place since 2003.

He said Cambodia attained the lower middle-income status in 2015 when per capita income touched $1,070.

Since 2007, he said Cambodia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by a healthy seven per cent per annum, which helped improve the economic status of the people.

Per capita income jumped to $1,435 last year compared to $1,042 in 2013. The government aims to achieve a per capita income of $1,560 this year.

Huang said Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier announced funding of $200 million for the South-South Cooperation, largely to promote sustainable development among the region’s emerging economies.

“We have taken a lot of initiatives to help regional countries narrow their development gaps and reduce poverty levels,” he said.

However, Sophal Ear, an associate professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles, US, was not as optimistic about poverty eradication.

He said even with the help of China, which successfully achieved its Millennium Development Goals, it was next to “impossible” to wipe out poverty.

“For the SDG, there are 17 goals and they’re not [so] easy to check off.

“I think it will be next to impossible to ‘eliminate poverty’ completely unless it is defined very narrowly, as say $2 a day per person, but even then we may never reach it even with China’s help,” he said.

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