The rice sector has been key in lifting Cambodians out of poverty, though they are still vulnerable to slipping back into poverty should even the slightest economic shocks occur, according to The World Bank’s latest assessment report.
The report, Where Have All the Poor Gone? Cambodia Poverty Assessment 2013, released Thursday at a workshop at the Phnom Penh Hotel, details the country’s achievement of exceeding the Millennium Development Goal target to halve poverty—driven by a growing rice sector. Cambodia was expected to meet its target in 2015, but in fact met it four years earlier in 2011.
The report says that in 2004, the total number of poor was 7 million and the poverty rate at 53 percent. This has since more than halved to 3 million poor and a poverty rate of 20.5 percent in 2011. In 2004, 5 in 10 Cambodians were poor, compared with 2 in 10 in 2011.
Between 2004 and 2011, the biggest contributors to helping erase poverty were increasing rice prices and increased rice production, “which raised farmers’ revenues and farm workers’ wages and together accounted for almost half of the poverty reduction,” Ulrich Zachau, World Bank country director for Cambodia and Southeast Asia, said.
Despite the positive figures, many of the people who were once defined as poor still linger just above the poverty line—defined by the cost of a food basket with a minimum amount of calories, plus an allowance for non-food consumption.
The number of poor—those living on $1.15 per day—has decreased by 4 million over the seven years, and the number of near-poor—those living above $1.15 but below $2.30 per day—has increased by 3.5 million.
“Being ‘near-poor,’ they are still at risk of falling back into poverty at the slightest income shock. For example, the impact of losing an income of…about $0.30 would throw an estimated 3 million Cambodians back into poverty,” Mr. Zachau said.
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