Saturday, April 18, 2009

Address at the 5th Asia Economic Forum: “Challenges and Opportunities In the Face of Global Economic and Financial Crisis”

Kingdom of Cambodia

Raffles Hotel Le Royal, April 6th 2009

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure and honor to address this 5th Asia Economic Forum: “Challenges and Opportunities in the Face of Global Economic and Financial Crisis”.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to warmly thank the University of Cambodia and the International Foundation for Arts and Cultures of Tokyo for initiating to organize this annual event to invite national and international leaders from governmental institutions and private sector, research institutes, civil society, and development partners in order to exchange perspectives on economic, financial and development issues in Asia in the context that the whole world is being hit hard by the financial crisis, especially in the time we are taking measures to mitigate the impact and searching for appropriate and effective responses.

We are all aware that the current economic and financial crisis marks the first global crisis of the era of globalization. The root causes of the crisis were more than the failure of market regulation and the supervision of the financial institutions. Many financial institutions turned to high risk financial practices and adopted the strategy of bypassing this regulation.

What started as a series of financial market events in America has weakened the whole world's economies. The collapse of real estate markets, the breakdown in the major financial markets, the loss of trust and confidence, the collapse of U.S Wall Street, and company closures all played a part in causing the financial crisis.

The ripple effect has spread beyond credit, mortgages, failures in companies, leading to the unemployment and world recession. The crises in real estate, banking, and credit in the US is having a global effect beyond American financial markets, and causing economic imbalances around the world.

Economists believe that Asia could be decoupled from the crisis as Asia’s economy would be sustained by high economic growth of China and India, even though the U.S. and Europe will be in crisis. On the contrary, Asia was immediately hit by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 causing a high level of risk aversion that resulted in a sudden stop of capital inflows. The high volatility of international capital flows has been a powerful factor in the crisis contagion. The crisis then caused sharp decline in international trade which has been a major channel of transmission for East Asia’s economy, whose exports to America and Europe amounted to 12% of the GDP.

Although the developing countries of Asia have been well-prepared to cope with the current crisis, the decline of foreign investment and the increase in the cost of international capital have severely affecting many of Asia's developing economies. Some of Asia's developing countries have found themselves difficult to borrow from international community, which might reduce the ability to finance development programs and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) although they are able to pay back. Several Asian countries have seen their exports declining by 10% to 20%. As a result, contraction of international trade is not just a channel of crisis transmission but also a factor in bringing down the production. In this regard, international trade is not only a vector of contagion but an accelerator of the crisis.

Moreover, the global economic and financial turmoil has spread and jeopardized the well-beings of Asia. The financial crisis clearly shows the imbalance of rich and poor states and in this context Asia must be smart and innovative in dealing with the challenges facing us. Everyone must do their part including public and private sectors to seize the opportunities to help stabilize and secure Asia's rise in the 21st century. There are many awaiting challenges and opportunities, which might happen at once.

When will this economic and financial crisis last? If the economic and financial crisis continue what will happen to our Millennium Development Goals? Will we have a global depression or collapse of the world's market?

I think these are pertinent questions that leaders must consider. However, looking at what has happened globally, we see that we cannot just rely only on market forces, but we need government intervention to control market forces. We cannot rely on a system simply based on market forces and confidence to grab the opportunities.

In this context, we must collaborate closely to tackle the current crisis which can pose a significant challenge for global integration. In particular, national responses to the crisis can lead to protectionism, economic and financial fragmentation. Moreover, since the start of the crisis, many countries have raised customs tariffs to protect their domestic production.

Along with this, many developing countries which adopted export-led growth strategies and liberalized their capital accounts; found that they were suffering from the effects of a reduction of aggregate demand of nations of export destination. These economies are thus suffering from falling exports, falling commodity prices, and declining domestic demand although they have done nothing wrong on their own.

Therefore, emerging economies and developing countries are now suffering from the same vicious circle that is affecting the developing nations, meaning: their weakening economies are inter-acting with weaknesses in their financial systems. Unfortunately, the repercussion of the current economic crisis is not simply on the economy but also on political implications for the development.

Therefore, the credibility and reliability of the existing financial system must be reviewed. Since the crisis originated in the United States, the country which is one of the major authors of financial market deregulation, the United States investment banking model as well as reliance upon the corrective powers of the financial market have been discredited. For that reason, many developing are calling for the creation of a new and more universal kind of international banking and financial system.

Along with that, at the 14th ASEAN Summit, leaders of ASEAN countries agreed on strengthening cooperation with the International Financial Institutions through utilizing their resources and expertise to cope with the current crisis. Moreover, ASEAN leaders also called for an urgent and bold reform of the international financial system by paying attention to voices and interests of the emerging and developing countries. All leaders are expected to share ASEAN’s views and working closely with other major economies to address the current global economic and financial crisis. At the global level, ASEAN leaders agreed to work with the G-20, particularly on the reform of institutions and international financial markets.

In this connection, I am pleased to note that during the summit on April 2nd 2009 the G-20 were committed to providing the capital flow to the emerging and developing countries, in which the G-20 agreed to increase considerable capital allocation to the international financial institutions in order that they have capital in hand for comprehensive coordination works in coping with the global economic and financial crisis. Practically, the G-20 agreed to provide the budget of USD 850 billion through International Monetary Fund and multi-lateral development bank in order to sustain growth in the emerging and developing countries.

We must be aware that these approaches only fix the financial crisis. How can we solve the economic crisis which includes unemployment, food crises, health crises, and environmental crisis that affects us all?

Therefore, the global economic and financial crisis is a test for the world’s ability to challenge with the economic downturn, which may affect the economic, environmental, social and political stability. We must work together and be universally responsible to spearhead Asia in time of unfavourable period. We must act together with common purpose to develop long-term policies that create long-term opportunities for our people. It is for sure that this severe global economic and financial crisis can affect and have pressure on the Least Developed Countries, which may lead to the cancellation of commitment in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in time that the loss of jobs and incomes increased as well as the shortage of fund to finance education, health and other social safety nets projects.

Cambodia has been approaching the crisis by two different angles – to address the financial and economic vulnerabilities while dealing with the social impacts on employment and income simultaneously. In this regard, Cambodia is committed to ensuring macro-economic stability through the implementation of financial policy to stimulate growth, soft monetary policy and promoting the most active implementation of systematic reform programs, aiming at improving the local business and investment climate in order to win the confidence and attract local and international investments. At the same time, we have employed the existing and newly created social safety nets programs to channel funding to fuel consumption as well as helping the poor and affected people.

Before ending, I would like to stress that Cambodia is currently enjoying full peace, political stability more than ever since the end of 1960s. The universal election in 2008 was regarded by the national and international opinions as free, fair, transparent and just, with the results reflecting the will of strong support from the people. Almost a decade of economic growth has been moving well with the average growth of 9.4%. Cambodia still continues to gain support from bilateral and multi-lateral international development partners, especially for the year 2009, during the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF), the Royal Government attracted the Official Development Assistance of approximately USD 1 billion.

Therefore, a recent report by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) which rated Cambodia as a country at very high risk due to the global economic crisis is ‘incredible’ and contradictory. It is comprehensively seen that Cambodia is far from being destabilized by the global economic crisis albeit the garment industry is being affected due to the decline of export markets. Practically, many sectors of our economy and investment projects are still on-going while our banking system as well as public and private sectors are still being operated as normal.

The challenges ahead are unpredictable, but I am fully confident that Cambodia will overcome the crisis and get back to its normal business – implementing our poverty reduction policy as stipulated in the Rectangular Strategy-Phase II, by increasing investment in infrastructure, vocational training in the rural community, as well as education and health.

In conclusion, I would like to wish the Forum a great success with fruitful and excellent results, which will significantly contribute to the fight against the impact stemming from the global economic and financial crisis in our region.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Address at the Opening Ceremony of the “30th Health Conference and the 7th Joint Review of Health Sector”

Inter Continental Hotel, 23rd March 2009

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, International and National Guests,

Dear Participants!

Today, it is my great pleasure and honor to join you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, in the Opening Ceremony of the “30th Health Conference and the 7th Joint Review of Health Sector”.

At the outset, I would like to warmly welcome and express my appreciation for the management and officials of the Ministry of Health (MoH) as well as all relevant ministries/institutions for exerting joint efforts to organize such an important conference aiming at reviewing the achievements and challenges of health sector in the past year and setting direction for effective implementation for the years ahead.

I am strongly convinced that all speakers’ intervention and comprehensive discussion on each topic today will enable us to come up with great ideas which can be compiled as basic and comprehensive data for the preparation of strategies, policies, and development programs for the health sector.

I would like to highly evaluate the management, doctors, nurses, and all people working at the MoH, hospitals, health centers and posts, development partners, as well as all relevant ministries/institutions, for having jointly implemented health sector’s policies and action plans with the aim of improving the efficiency of the provision of health service, consultation, treatment, and care for the people and for making huge progress in our health sector so far. This contributes not only to the promotion of reputation and people’s confidence on our health care system but also to realize the development objectives of the “Rectangular Strategy” for growth, employment, equity, and efficiency for the cause of poverty reduction.

Indeed, the Royal Government of Cambodia still acknowledge that poverty reduction can not only be made possible through achieving high economic growth alone, because the promotion of social sector development also represent another important factor for promoting social equity which contributes to the eradication of social gap as well as improving the people’s capacity and opportunity so that they can participate more in the development of the national economy. In this sense, a society is deemed to be strong when it has knowledgeable and health people, be able to reduce poverty and eliminate spreadable diseases, strictly abide by the principles of democracy, respect human rights, dignity and social justice which enable each of it’s member to make progress base on their own abilities to participate in promoting economic growth and achieving sustainable development. Practically, good provision of health service will positively contribute to economic development because such service is the important determining factor for improving the productivity, employment, investment, and saving through enabling the people to receive good results from their education and training to support their livings.

Even though having a good health sector alone is not sufficient for achieving high economic growth, experiences of countries in the region have clearly shown that the improvement in health sector is a key factor among others which could bring about rapid socio-economic progress. In this spirit, I would like to stress once again that the Royal Government’s health policy focuses not only on the aspect of the economy but it is the determination which derived from paying high attention on improving the overall wellbeing of the people so that they can live a good life.

It is because of this spirit that I still consider the strengthening of the people’s capacity and paying close attention on their health as the most important agenda in response to the agenda of poverty reduction and the implementation of all sectoral reform programs. Without any doubt, with this framework the Royal Government will increase the use of public resources as well as trying to mobilize development cooperation financing and continue to encourage the private sector to increase investment in health sector aiming at promoting the people’s health through providing health education, treatment, and prevention of diseases at urban and rural areas with the objective of reducing maternal and children mortality rate and preventing all kinds of spreadable diseases.

Through the implementation of the strategic plan and improvement programs of health service provision, a significant progress has been made in many health areas, including the improvement of maternal, children and infant health, the expansion of vaccination coverage such as tuberculoses, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, hepatitis B, and lower infection rate of HIV Aids, dung fever and bird flu. Also, we have managed to improve the maternal and infant nutrition intakes through the strengthening of health system such as health financing, human resource development, improved information system and health governance, better supply, management, and use of medicines and utilities, and regulation of pharmacy and private services.

In this spirit, I would like to encourage all levels of health officials across the country to be committed to fulfilling your responsibility to achieve more flagship outcomes in restoring and expanding basic health infrastructure, developing institutional capacity and boosting human resources to support the expansion of health service coverage in order to address the people’s needs for health service across the country. Along with this, I would like to show my high appreciation to development partners that provided both financial and technical support in order to improve health condition of the people which contributes to poverty reduction in the country. Indeed, this flagship achievement also stems from the development of institutional capacity and the unflinching implementation of socio-economic development policy with full support from the people, development partners and the private sector.

In overall, the people’s health has been steadily improved along with the achievement of economic growth over the last decade. However, health issue remains a major challenge for all of us, especially maternal, infant and children health and the poor’s access to health services. This requires the Ministry of Health and all related institutions and development partners to overcome upcoming obstacles to revitalize and increase the efficiency of health services to enhance major health indicators such as the reduction of maternal, child and infant mortality rate. In this context, I strongly believe that all levels of health officials will continue to implement their action plans with high responsibility in order to provide more effective and better quality health services and eliminate all discrimination in their professional conduct in order to promote people’s welfare for the better.

While peace, political stability, and liberalization are taking deep root in strengthening macroeconomic stability and attracting investment which are the prerequisites to sustainable development and poverty reduction, the Royal Government still continue to undertake the strategic plan of health sector, provide vaccination and treatment services and build referral hospitals and health centers across the country to supply basic health services with efficiency, sustainability, equity and improved professional quality. Moreover, the Royal Government will improve the allocation of doctors, nurses and midwives in the health system, increase the incentives for rural health officials, and increase the number of doctors, nurses and midwives through training programs and capacity building. Along with this, the Royal Government will continue to pay particular attention to health insurance, health education and dissemination, and hygiene standard across the country, especially in rural areas, and provide health services to the poor by using the equity fund and no patient will be left to die without utmost care and treatment from the doctors and nurses.

Along with this, the Royal Government will implement necessary measures to make health services more responsive and accessible by decentralizing services and management to the sub-national levels such as national hospitals, referral hospitals, and health centers, increasing investment in physical infrastructure, medical utilities and technologies, promoting supporting services, financing research in public health to formulate strategic health policy, monitoring outcomes and evaluating governance in health sector through the implementation of “wide sectoral approach” and the promotion of ownership and cooperation with development partners. Moreover, the Royal Government strongly encourages private participation in the health sector.

Indeed, in spite of the remarkable achievements mentioned above, I think we still have a long way to go in order to improve and supply timely health services. In this spirit, in order to achieve more outcomes and address various challenges, I would like to raise some recommendations for your consideration as follows:

1. The conference has to pay attention to the discussion on health education and key intervention in public health sector in order to promote awareness of the people about the implementation of various necessary measures, the coordination to make sure that people receive sufficient information on health services, especially in the remote areas, which can assist them in making the right decision among other choices related to health care and the prevention of spreadable viruses and epidemic diseases.

2. The conference has to study the possibility of providing suitable health information or health messages according to the need of different communities and at various geographical location as the requirement of the health measure operation can be different between urban and rural people. In this regards, we have to improve the public health base such as health centers and referral hospitals by making them more effective in implementing various necessary mechanisms in order to protect the poor and low income families from the poverty trap. For the short and medium term, the Ministry of Health as well as all related ministries/institutions must put more efforts to reduce to the minimum level or withdraw the financial barrier in order to create favorable condition for all people, especially the poor in receiving necessary and timely public health services. Therefore, we must continue to strengthen and expand gradually toward the creation of a social safety net, which is more effective and sustainable in the future through existing mechanism such as the service fee exemption system, equity fund program and the community health insurance.

3. The conference has to discuss deeply and extensively about the implementation of the policy on public service delivery by paying special attention to the changing of mindset and personality of the public health officials in order to become health service providers for the people. In this connection, civil servants and all health officials, who are obliged to provide treatment services and health care for the people, have to try their utmost to change their behaviors according to the health professional ethics in connecting with people or patients through health service provision and care base on technical principles and have to abide by the virtue and social morality in order to make sure that the service receivers are more confident and secured. Along with that, special operation agency, started with the Ministry of Health in 2009, has to help orientate the mindset and behavior of the officials working in the agency such as through the strengthening of the management system, transparency, accountability and efficiency.

4. The conference has to study on the requirement for expanding the basic health infrastructures to enable the people to receive health service, especially at the health centers and health posts according to the growth of the population in the present and in the future. Along with that, it is necessary to look for the possibility of providing sufficient and qualified health staffs according to all those health bases. As for the deployment of health staff, especially the midwife, the Ministry of Health has to scrutinize by continuing to maximize the current staff distribution aiming at ensuring the balance between the number of health officials within each specialized area, serving in the capital city, provinces, urban and rural areas, and the population and socio-economic features.

In this sense, in order to achieve the vision of heath sector and to solve all sorts of challenges in implementing the strategic plan according to the concepts raised above, I would like to suggest the Ministry of Health, related ministries/institutions and all development partners to continue jointly strengthening the implementation of the health sector strategic planning for 2008-2015 by paying special attention to the financial and technical assistance to support the policy makers and executives at both the national and sub-national levels to improve the health sector nationwide. Along with that, the Ministry of Health has to try to strengthen and extend its relationship with related ministries/institutions and various development partners to attract financial support for research studies, laboratories, data and information sharing, and building health policy as well as boosting, observing, controlling and evaluating every implementation of health strategic plan and the public and private health service delivery in order to ensure that the health service delivery is of high quality with equity and efficiency. More specifically, the Ministry of Health has to constantly strengthen the professional ethics of medical doctors, the management of clinics, the distribution and use of medicines as well as strengthen the effective use of equity fund on the right target.

Once again, I strongly believe that the Ministry of Health and all health partners will continue their cooperation to implement the health strategic plan 2008-2015 more successfully aiming to achieve the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals at the end of 2015. Along with this, I would like to convey the message and encourage the conference to discuss in details the challenges and achievements accomplished by the Ministry of Health over the years in order to learn from the experiences and put forward the necessary recommendations to settle every shortcoming we are facing today.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to appeal to Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and the whole conference to actively and lively participate as well as trying to share knowledge and experiences for improving the implementation of health strategies for success and effectiveness.

At this end, with the “Opening Ceremony of the 30th Health Conference and the 7th Joint Review of Health Sector”, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen the four Gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.