25 March 08
More Pagodas but Less Monks
It is indeed a great pleasure that I have the opportune moment to be with all of you to celebrate the inauguration ceremony of the Pagoda of Seila Nimet in the district of Baray in the province of Kompong Thom. I am so surprised by the report that we now have 4,300 Buddhist pagodas but we have less number of monks as we have gone down from 60,000 to lower than 55,000 and the cause could be because of less number of people wish to take monkshood. However, monks have greater number over police and soldiers.
High Prices of Basic Commodity
I have a matter to inform you and it is not particularly a concern of Cambodia alone but of the whole world. In Cambodia we have noticed the increase in food and oil prices. It is a major issue cooked up by the opportunists or rogue traders. It has been fabricated in such a way that one arrow could kill two birds. The big bird is indeed Hun Sen.
In Kompong Cham, Prey Veng andKandal, some say that Samdech Hun Sen will do to help farmer to increase the price of one kilogram of rice to be equally high as the price per liter of oil. In some other places they said Samdech Techo Hun Sen said that he have made the price of land high and people sold all their land without any land left for rice cultivation. These are parts of their campaigns towards the forthcoming elections.
My reactions to these rumors are, firstly, no matter what we do, we could not make the price of rice as equally high as the price of oil. Secondly, as far as selling land and having no land left for cultivation, they should be informed that Cambodia has a size of two million hectares of rainy season rice, 400,000 hectares of dry season rice and about 700,000 hectares of farm land, together we have three million hectares. Will these lands become factory or industrialized zones? Land in demand is place where they build factory, enterprise, economic development park or apartment construction projects. One simple question is who has the money to buy the three million hectares of land in Cambodia. It is so impossible to be true. I am sure this psychic test will fail before soon.
The fact is that the rice price in Cambodia has been cheaper compared to other rice producing countries. We have a situation that Malaysia needs to buy rice from Cambodia, and the Philippines mull import of Cambodian rice, whereas Vietnam and Thailand purchase rice in bulk from Cambodia as well. This means that Thailand and Vietnam could get rice at a lower price from Cambodia. The question is whether Cambodia is short of rice stock or not. In fact Cambodia is not lacking rice and one can take a look in the market there are plenty of rice. The Royal Government also reserves its stock for price and availability intervention in the market.
Some have gone far to suggest that I have to set the price tag for basic communities and I respond now that if you want me to do that we have to turn our clock in reverse starting with shutting down political parties, non-governmental organizations, arresting and handcuffing protesters, cutting off relations with ASEAN, staying out of AFTA, IMF, ADB and World Bank, etc. But this is contradictory to the law of social development. Politicians with this in mind should stop fooling around and those who are being cheated should also be alert. Remember that Cambodia is the free market economy country.
Implication on High Prices
Why does the price of rice in Cambodia go up? First we have to look at the world situation and then a reflection can be done with a focus on Cambodia. The US economic recession has been the core of the issue. It serves as the engine of growth for the world economy. Its recession affects every economies, Cambodia is one of them.
The US currency devalues against other strong currencies. Particularly, the exchange rate with the Cambodian Riel has been devalued from 4100 Riel to 1 US dollar to between 3,995 and 2998 Riel per 1 US dollars. Secondly, the price of oil has gone up sky high because of high cost of production and increasing demand for energy for expanding the economy. Some oil producing countries not only do not increase but also scale down their production.
The increase of energy price has impact on other basic commodity as well. Cambodia has been subsidizing in the production of electricity so that people continue to pay same prices for the electricity though the cost of production has increased./.