I visited AEON Mall today in Phnom Penh. Fortunately there was not too much rain in the city, so it was possible to move in my favorite urban transport: tuk-tuk (still I have to check the urban bus.) Entering the 205 million dollars mall, I remembered October 1999 when I arrived for the first time to Phnom Penh from Bangkok and then I could made a lot comparisons between two of the Southeast Asian capitals. Phnom Penh was a dusty town full of thieves, beggars, electricity service was limited, Internet was dominated by a single poor service company, unpaved roads, odors from a nonexistent sewage system… Then, before this huge mall between Diamond Island (Koh Pich) and Sothearos Boulevard, one friend pointed to it and said “A big mall for a poor country.” In fact it is, but I don’t share the same intention of the announcement. It is similar to the comment of one visitor to my social communication section: “But these boys don’t see coming from poverty… they have laptops!” Sure, they have, because I have been promoting that they give value to education even in the middle of their poverty to be able to break their poverty circle. Continue reading
One of the best tests for Phnom Penh and its development comes during the raining season. It is then when we discover what is not too good like flooding in different streets, many times becoming authentic rivers more than 4 meters high. Here 147 Street. You can send your own report on floodings to Urban Voices Cambodia. Photo Courtesy.
CNN’s reporter Linda Goldberg enlists what she thinks the 7 best Cambodian islands. “They’re still massively undeveloped compared to their Thai neighbors, but Cambodia’s islands are starting to get the attention they deserve,” she writes. The seven islands are Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, Song Saa, Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Tang and Kog Totang. Each island is described with a recommendation such as an island for partying (Koh Rong) or for luxury (Son Sa). The Cambodian coast from Thailand to Vietnam is of 400 kilometers and the Cambodian sea is formed by a prolific archipelago of islands and islets that remain in a very natural condition. The growing Cambodian tourist industry is already looking to them as a next setting to attract more visitors, something that could be good for the national economy, but endangers a fragile ecosystem and the life of islander families, rarely included in development plans. I normally complain of the lack of faculties in Cambodia such as archeology or marine biology. A growing city such as Sihanoukville should have a public university specializing young people in subjects like the protection of the marine ecosystem. You find the coast full of smart developers measuring islands, beaches and towns to build resorts and casinos, but there is nothing about big projects for the ecosystem protection and promotion.
What if you are an Iranian man with a family that thinks that migration is the only way to open opportunities to your children and chooses a country like Australia. After so many hardships on the way, mostly by sea since 91% of illegal migrants to that country enter by boats, you are detained and scheduled to be relocated in… Cambodia. Probably you will think all efforts to change your social situation has been in vain. It would not be difficult to guess that Australia is sending you to one of the poorest countries of Asia. Just this month the Thai Military Junta deported 200 thousand illegal Cambodian workers, a very expensive and arguably decision. But the fact is that near half million Cambodians are working in Thailand because they don’t think they can improve their standard of life in their own country. How is it possible that a country like Australia “donates” more poors to a poor country?
It must come from a very wrong mentality. Probably a certain xenophobia, racism and lack of humanism. How is it possible that a country made by migrants reaches so extreme policies such as dump poor people to a poor country? The evil is both sided: uncertainty for the migrants and more social problems for a society like Cambodia that is struggling to defeat poverty.
You can get the World Bank report in this link. It is an extensive and very accurate research on East Asia. There are some facts about Cambodia we need to follow such as the lack of skilful workforce that would make the Cambodian economy vulnerable. But there are other facts to point out as well. Here I make a list of those facts described by the report in regard to Cambodia.
- Cambodia remains with a significant problem in malnutrition of children together with Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.
- We are among the faster labor productivity growings in the planet.
- Most Cambodians continue to work in the informal sector (primary sector) and not in wage and salaried employment. It is also because Cambodia continues to be a rather agricultural society.
- Cambodia rank poorly with regard to friendly investment climate (place 137 in the world.)
- In Cambodia training program relied more in centralized planning and government supply than by market demand.
- Cambodia is near the worst performance Micronesia limit in “ease of doing business” rank in East Asia.
- Cambodia is considered an agrarian society with near 80% of its population living in rural areas. It means we need to raise the productivity of agriculture in order to free labor and human capital to work in rural off-farms enterprises and eventually to migrate to town and cities.
Urban Voice Cambodia invited me to give a speech on its workshop this Saturday at Eden Park in Phnom Penh. The workshop was to present the website to different people and to explain the role of urban voices on the development of a city like Phnom Penh. The name of the activity was “The city speaks!” Continue reading
I share this video documentary by Teleantioquia about Cambodia. It is in Spanish, but you can understand most of the story. We are doubling it in Khmer and English… coming soon. A good resume of what is Cambodia, its history, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville and how I see Cambodia since 1999.
Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 1, Teleantioquia, 2014.
Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 2, Teleantioquia, 2014.
Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 3, Teleantioquia, 2014.
Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 4, Teleantioquia, 2014.