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Poverty-reduction goals to be hit by global crisis

Poverty-reduction goals to be hit by global crisis

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Children at Phnom Penh's notorious Stung Meanchey dump sit on top of a pile of smouldering rubbish. TRACEY SHELTON

GLOBAL financial turmoil and rising domestic inflation likely will keep Cambodia from reaching its poverty-reduction target this year, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh has said, adding that a worsening economy has pushed more Cambodians below the poverty line.

"Every year we have been able to lower poverty by one percent, but the global financial crisis could affect this," Cham Prasidh said.

While Cambodia continues to post impressive economic growth estimated at around 6.5 percent, roughly a third of the population are still living on less than US$1 a day.

Cham Prasidh, speaking Tuesday at a gathering of industry and trade officials, said that one percent of Cambodians - around 140,000 people - have fallen below the poverty line this year.

However, the Asian Development Bank, in an update of its 2008 economic outlook assessment released in September, presented a dramatically higher figure, saying, "preliminary evidence suggests that as many as two million people may have slipped below the poverty line, in addition to 4.5 million already in poverty".

Some officials fear the global market turmoil could impact the ability of donors to continue doling out massive aid packages to poor nations like Cambodia, which depends on international funds for a significant percentage of its national budget.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said government officials and donor-nation representatives are expected to hold meetings on the aid issue in early December.

"Cambodia faces an indirect impact [on donor aid] because of the crisis," he said.

Sok Sina, an independent economist, said fluctuations in global markets, along with inflation of around 25 percent, have had one definite impact on poverty in Cambodia.

"It is hard to say what the exact percentages are, but we know that people are making less money than they did before," he said.

Cambodia's largest export markets - the United States and European Union members - are among the nations most affected by the crisis.

This means income streams might dry up as exports slow, leading to a rise in unemployment, Sok Sina said.

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