W e have read with great interest and appreciation Din Merican's letter to the
Editor (Post, February 23-March 7) in which he puts forward his views on development
for Cambodia. He argues his points clearly and thoughtfully and they are all the
easier for us to concur with as they are largely in line with our own thinking. Din
Merican also invites UNDP amongst others to respond to his comments. We are grateful
to the Phnom Penh Post for allowing us to do so.
Din Merican took the CDRI International Roundtable on Structural Adjustment Programme
(SAP) in Cambodia (26 January) as the starting point for his letter. UNDP participated
in CDRI's timely and important initiative, producing a paper and also acting as a
lead discussant. The views summarised below are fleshed out in more detail in that
paper, that is available from our information unit and from CDRI.
We agree that Cambodia's development vision must be formulated by the Cambodians
themselves and that there is a need for a broader development concept than just GDP
growth through structural adjustment. We would however like to stress that growth
is fundamental to any development strategy and that structural adjustment with its
focus on sound macro-economic fundamentals - low inflation, low budget deficit, liberalised
trade, prices and interest rates, etc. - can be instrumental in bringing that growth
about. The real issue lies in the human development aspect of that growth, i.e. recognising
that people-centred development favours growth, that the fruits of growth must be
equitably distributed. Looked at in this way it is not a question of structural adjustment
or not, it is a question of how and in what sequence to implement the often painful
adjustment measures and how to complement them with assistance programmes that reduce
their short-term detrimental effects on the most vulnerable.
Structural adjustment is a complex process and the forces at work are not all clearly
understood. This and previous experiences of SAP in other countries would argue for
a more gradual and flexible implementation than has been the case.
We strongly support Din Merican's view that medium and small enterprises and agriculture
are fundamental to a successful development strategy but we would go further to say
that rural development and poverty alleviation are the issues central to Cambodia's
future for the simple reason that the majority of the population (most of it poor)
resides in the provinces.
At the CDRI Roundtable, as indeed in all our work, UNDP stressed the need for a broader
development paradigm than a structural adjustment programme (SAP). More medium-term
issues such as equity, as Din Merican points out, and social regeneration need to
be taken into account in what might be called CAP - Cambodian Adjustment Programme.
In summary, UNDP's approach to macro-economic policy and management is to be supportive
of achieving the overall goal of sustainable human development i.e. equitable and
sustainable development. Our cooperation with the Royal Government of Cambodia, national
institutions, donors, international financial institutions and NGOs is thus geared
towards meeting the real-life needs of people in Cambodia, especially as relates
to poverty, employment/income, position of women and disadvantaged and vulnerable
groups, and in respect of the sustainable use of Cambodia's natural resources endowment.
UNDP's projects fall broadly into three slightly overlapping categories; poverty
alleviation, governance, and environment and natural resource management. UNDP works
at the upstream or policy level in supporting the government at the central level
to promote an environment conductive to the NPRD goals of growth, equity and reconciliation.
At the grassroots level, projects in the three categories address fundamental development
constraints such as isolation, access to services and resources, peace and security,
social integration and environmental regeneration.
Furthermore, UNDP has been asked by the Cambodian government to assist the Council
for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) in its efforts to coordinate the use of all
the external assistance Cambodia is receiving so as to render it as effective as
We look forward to receiving comments to the above. Should readers require further
information regarding the above or any specific area of UNDP activity, please address
them to our public information officer.
- Office of the UNDP Resident Representative in Cambodia, P.O. Box 877, Phnom