While the complaints about gas prices soaring to 4,450 riels per liter continue,
another crescendo of worries is coming from consumers about hikes in the cost of
food and other commodities.
"Now everything is so expensive! Before one kilo of pork is 10,000 riel but
now it's 16,000 riel," said Kang Ling Hua, who runs a small food shop O'Russey
market. She had just added 1,000 riel per meal on her previous price of $1 for a
plate of food, because she said inflation had eroded all of her profit.
"What is even more terrible is the price of gas," she said.
As businesspeople like Hua complained about "no profit," vulnerable salaried
workers were worrying about how to stretch their wages to cover their needs.
"It's getting hard for me now because the price of goods keeps on increasing
but not much my salary," said Chay Ty Hui, a worker who earns $80 per month.
According to statistics from the National Institute of Statistics, the inflation
rate in Cambodia this year has risen to 6.5% in September. At the end of 2006, it
Among the 200 items in Cambodia's Consumer Price Index, the price increases in the
Food, Beverage and Tobacco category saw the most dramatic increases. That category
was up 13% in September, compared with 6.4% in September 2006.
Several economists said Cambodia's increased inflation is being caused by high international
food prices, currency inflation as well as the sharp increase in oil prices.
"The main factor is higher international food prices, including, importantly,
China where food price inflation rose to 18% in August," John Nelmes, IMF Resident
Representative in Cambodia, told the Post.
Nelmes said the effect of the weak U.S. dollar is hard to separate from other factors,
but it is also a factor that affects inflation because it make goods imported from
neighboring countries more expensive for Cambodians.
"Another factor is the recent sharp increase in international price of oil,
which has recently fed through to higher fuel prices in Cambodia."
Another view came from Neou Seiha, Economic Researcher of the Economic Institute
of Cambodia, who said the limited local supply of food contributes to inflation because
the agricultural sector in Cambodia increased only about 2-3% this year, not enough
to meet increased demand.
Some local suppliers are choosing to export agricultural products to other countries
due to the higher international food prices, making domestic food prices increase
even more sharply.
Tal Nay Im, Director General of the National Bank of Cambodia, said the depreciation
of the dollar affects inflation in Cambodia because Cambodia is a dollarized economy.
But she put the greater blame on the appreciation of Thai Baht in relation to the
riel and the dollar.
"Cambodia imports a lot of things from Thailand, so when the Baht appreciates,
even if the value of the goods stays the same we still need to pay more riel or dollar
for that same product. We don't produce so much stuff, not even daily products, so
we need imported goods. Inflation is inevitable."
Nay Im said inflation wouldn't affect the garment industry because the transactions
are done in dollars.
Nay Im said with inflation still in single digits, no monetary policy changes are
Nelmes reiterated that, "The appropriate policy response is to allow the economy
to adjust to those higher prices by its own accord," he said.
The National Institute of Statistics projected inflation in 2008 at 5.5% and said
it will stay at about that level for the next few years depending on international
oil supply and the U.S economy.
Meanwhile, for the average Cambodian, the situation is tough.
"I hope the goods prices will not increase anymore. I can't afford to pay for
food that gets expensive month by month with the same money my children give me,"
said Liang Phalla, 56, negotiating a price for some dried fish at O'Russey market.