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Election Year Investment Dips

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the first in a two-part series examining the impact of foreign investment on voters.]

Signs of investment in Cambodia now abound: from plans for skyscrapers, fresh paint on new villas and infrastructure projects across the countryside. Millions of dollars are coming in, but, as Cambodia enters an election year, those numbers are dipping.

Political observers say little of this money gets to the people anyway, even as quality investment has shied away from the country thanks to corruption.

Still, voters are likely to start looking for leaders who can help bring them some of the millions of dollars of foreign investment coming in, with a government that will be in power until 2013.

Cambodia saw private investment drop from $503 million in the first quarter of 2007 to $253 million in the same period this year, according to the government's investment oversight body, the Council for Development of Cambodia. The top investors for the country include Singapore, China and South Korea.

A dip in investment capital will be felt by Cambodia's labor force, which comprises hundreds of thousands of young voters. This also affects Cambodia's overall economic development, said Sok Sina, an independent economic analyst, who blamed a decline in garment exports to the US and the overall struggling global economy for the dip.

Voters may not necessarily think of this immediately as an issue, but opposition leader Sam Rainsy said poor investment was a product of poor government, especially corruption, which keeps away quality investors.

Election observers say voters are not concerned with the fall of investment or slow economic growth, because their living conditions remain still poor. But voters could concentrate on leaders who can pull them out of poverty.