Gov’t Intends To Retain Development Policy

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday said that the government would continue to follow the Rectangular Strategy, an overarching policy that has guided Cambodia’s development since 2004, in the next mandate in the event of a CPP election victory.

“After vigorous consideration of the laid out challenges and recommendations, I have made the decision to continue the implementation of the Rectangular Strategy in the fourth term of the Royal Government,” Hun Sen said in his speech to close a four-day conference in Phnom Penh assessing the strategy.

In his nationally broadcast speech, the premier also listed the government’s achievements during the course of the current mandate, but in a rare admission, Hun Sen acknowledged a number of areas where the state has come up short.

The prime minister touted strong economic growth, macroeconomic stability, improved public financial management, and increased government expenditures in infrastructure improvements. He did raise the specter of inflation in his speech, but said that the government was already taking strong measures to keep it in check.

Despite such a positive assessment, Hun Sen also expressed concerns about the lack of diversity in the economy, which relies very heavily on just four economic pillars-garments, tourism, construction and agriculture.

“The garment and tourism sectors are quite vulnerable to external risks,” he said. “Agriculture, which accounts for 30 percent of the total GDP and accounts for 60 percent of total employment, still suffers from low yields and has not become the leading sector.”

Hun Sen also expressed concern over poverty reduction and the gap between the rich and poor. The premier cited the strong decline in the number of people living below the poverty line, from 47 percent in 1993 to 31 percent in 2007, but noted that the divide is getting wider between the rich and poor, particularly in areas where indigenous peoples live.

“This might spark social problems in the future,” he said, adding: “The rural living standard is still low and economic and social infrastructures are still inadequate.”

The prime minister also spoke of a growing problem with landlessness and the concentration of property ownership in fewer and fewer hands. He noted in particular some of the economic land concessions granted by the government to private companies have been underutilized and some have been illegally sold.

SRP President Sam Rainsy said by telephone Sunday that it meant little that the government meant to continue the Rectangular Strategy, claiming the policy platform to be nothing but an empty theory.

“The Rectangular Strategy succeeds only on paper-it is just window-dressing,” he said. “We should look into the reality of the people’s living standard.”

Sam Rainsy said that in the face of corruption, unemployment, land grabbing, and inflation, the public had little desire to ponder a theoretical strategy. “The people are interested in the high price of goods, people are complaining-they are not concerned about rectangles.”

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