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Phnom Penh slammed in new liveability assessment

Phnom Penh slammed in new liveability assessment

090610_17.jpg
090610_17.jpg

A new survey ranks Phnom Penh the worst city in Southeast Asia in terms of health care, stability, culture, environment, education and infrastructure

Photo by:

Tracey Shelton

Poor drainage caused by the city’s location on the Mekong floodplain is one reason Phnom Penh ranks low in "liveability".

APhnom Penh deputy governor has rejected a survey released Monday that ranked Phnom Penh as the worst Southeast Asian city to live in.

Only 12 cities out of 140 assessed worldwide scored lower in the Economist Intelligence Unit's EIU's 2009 Liveability survey.

The EIU survey assessed living conditions based on health care, stability, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.

Mann Chhoeun told the Post Tuesday that the survey did not take into account all the relevant factors that made a city liveable.

"We are developing Phnom Penh from nothing, and we are on the right path," he said.

"It is a beautiful city and we are proud of what we have achieved with Phnom Penh today."

Dana Langlois, owner of JavaArts and Java Cafe, who has lived in Phnom Penh for more than 10 years, said she had not seen the survey but thought the city had its good and bad points.

"The biggest problem is the cost and the expense compared to what you get," she said. She referred to homes on the market for a million dollars in a city lacking public transport, a consistent electricity supply and adequate drainage.

I've seen a lot of changes over the years – and most of them are positive.

"But overall the city is great. I've seen a lot of changes over the years - and most of them are positive," she said.

Vancouver was ranked the world's easiest city to live in and Harare, Zimbabwe, the toughest.

Asian and African cities dominated the lower rankings: Bangkok 100th, Manila 108th, New Delhi in joint 114th spot with Cairo, Mumbai 120th, Nairobi 122nd and Lusaka 126th.

Canadian and Australian cities held six of the top 10 spots. Vienna was in second place followed by Melbourne, Toronto, Perth, Calgary, Helsinki and Geneva, with Sydney and Zurich in joint ninth position.

The survey's authors said high-scoring cities tended to be midsized, in developed countries with a low population density, and benefited from cultural or recreational availability but without the crime or infrastructure problems that could be caused by large populations.

"At the other end of the ranking, most of the poorest-performing locations are in Africa or Asia, where civil instability and poor infrastructure present significant challenges," they said.

The liveability ranking is part of the EIU's Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. It is based on a rating of relative comfort for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across the five broad categories.

The survey gives an overall rating of 1-100, where 1 is intolerable and 100 is ideal. Any city with a rating of 80 or more will have "few, if any, challenges to living standards", while any city with a score of 50 or less will "present daily challenges to living standards".

Just 13 of the cities surveyed scored less than 50, including Phnom Penh, Tehran in 129th place, Karachi in 135th and Lagos in 136th.

The authors said the prospect of violence, whether through domestic protests, civil war or the threat of foreign incursion, played a significant role in the poorest-performing cities.

"This can exacerbate the impact of instability on other key liveability categories, such as infrastructure, health care indicators or the availability (or freedom) of certain activities," they said. The Economist Intelligence Unit is a branch of The Economist Group, which publishes the weekly news magazine The Economist in London.

This latest EIU survey follows one in March that claimed Cambodia was the fourth most at-risk country for instability in the wake of the global economic crisis, equal with Sudan and ahead only of Zimbabwe, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report, "Manning the Barricades", was widely condemned by the Cambodian government and business groups.

ACLEDA Bank Vice Chairman John Brinsden, who was among those who condemned the March report, said he had not seen the EIU's liveability rankings, but questioned what they really proved.

"I stopped looking at the EIU's assessment for these liveability type things in the mid-'80s when they were doing a rating on Taiwan," he said.

"They don't even come out here; these guys are sitting overseas just collecting data - so how can they talk about liveability?"

Cambodia EIU researcher Danny Richards said by email from London that the rankings were not necessarily related to the business operating environment, except perhaps in terms of assigning a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages.  

Instead, the ratings quantified the challenges that might be presented to an individual's lifestyle in any given location, and allowed for direct comparison between locations.

The poor result for Phnom Penh was therefore unlikely to have a "major negative impact" on foreign investment, he said, with investors concerned primarily about a host of other factors, such as market opportunities, the quality of the labour force and taxation.

He also noted that Phnom Penh was only a few notches below Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

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