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Poverty falling at rapid pace, says UNDP

Kazi Mahmood / Khmer Times Share:
The chart below shows the time trend reductions in Multidimensional Poverty in Cambodia (in red) which have been large and sustained over the last fifteen years. Supplied

Poverty in Cambodia has fallen dramatically over the last two decades, and continues to fall at a rapid pace, said a high official of the UNDP to Khmer Times yesterday.

All the poverty rateslines, either based on income and other dimensions, have seen big reductions at a gradual pace, often surpassing its peers in the Asia Pacific region and in the world.

The UNDP said the core poverty level measured on income poverty is likely to be estimated at below 10 percent of the population, contrary to some reports that stated the income poverty level in the country was at a whopping 35 percent.

“The figures are very clear. The earlier census showed that poverty was 13.5 percent in 2014. If we look at the rapid pace of the economic progress and the development as well as the proactive measures taken by the authorities, the poverty level is likely to be 10 percent in 2018.

“These figures are from the government and they are supported by the UNDP and the United Nations. It is just sometimes, we look at different measures for different things. Unfortunately, we have seen, last week for example, some confusion.”

“To be perfectly clear, poverty, by any measure you take, is on the decline. There has been rapid progress in poverty alleviation in Cambodia. If you look at the Millennium Development Goals concluded in 2015, you will see that Cambodia was a star performer. The country was a number of years ahead of schedule in its fight against poverty,” said UNDP country director Nick Beresford.

Richard Marshall, country economist, policy and advocacy unit at the UNDP noted the Government is reviewing the technical basis of the poverty calculation.

“This is the reason why the government is yet to publish the current poverty level figures. But with the level of economic growth, poverty reduction will still have been ongoing,” said Mr Marshall.

He explained that the income poverty level of the country, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) are different ball games.

“The MPI uses ten different weighted components to measure poverty,

It takes into consideration the size of houses you livc in, the education and health levels and so on.

“Cambodia went through a through time with many of its citizens failing to get back into the education system after they dropped out and this is taken into consideration in the MPI. This is not the case for the index based on income poverty.

“Income poverty can be based on a dollar a day measure which is now at $1.90 or a cost of basic needs approach counted as the minimum needs to be out of the poverty level,” said Mr Marshall.

Cambodia does not have its own MPI, unlike Vietnam, yet all the poverty lines are going down, the UNDP said.

Mr Beresford said barely 20 years ago Cambodia was was still in a fragile state, with a few pockets of conflict in the border areas while it still had active Khmer Rouge elements in some regions.

“It went through a long destructive civil war. But now look at the level of prosperity and growth as well as the level of employment.

“This is a very positive story in terms of economic growth coupled with poverty alleviation.

“In a fifteen year period, we have seen the economy – in real terms – more than tripled and poverty levels reduced by more than half. This matters the most,” Mr Beresford said.

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