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World Bank Worries Over Wealth Gap

Cambodia's economists are concerned the nation's recent growth rate is leading to a wider wealth gap in the provinces, while in the cities that gap remains unchanged.

In its recent report, "Sharing Growth: Equity and Development in Cambodia," the World Bank examined the last the disparities in the country's economic development.

"Rural inequality of consumption rose during the last decade, driving up aggregate inequality in Cambodia, while urban inequality remained unchanged," the World Bank said last month. "In contrast to consumption inequality, inequality in non-consumption measures of living standards such as school enrollment and mortality rates has fallen over time."

The "disparity in access" to infrastructure such as roads, amenities such as clean water and electricity, and basic services like schooling and health care "narrowed between 1997 and 2004, as have gender gaps in literacy and schooling," the World Bank said. "Inequality in rural and urban areas comes from two sources: the gap between the richest 25 percent and the rest, and inequality within the richest quarter of the population. Rising rural inequality was mainly the result of rising inequality among the richest quarter."

In recent interviews, economists echoed the World Bank's findings.

"During the past 10 years, economic growth in Cambodia was about 300 percent, but the income growth of the Cambodian people was 30 percent," Sok Hach, director of the Economic Institute of Cambodia, told VOA Khmer. "Therefore, the people's income was 10 times less than the economic growth."

"In order to reduce poverty in Cambodia, the Cambodian government and donor countries should let their policies known thoroughly to the private sector," he said. "At present, there is no good coordination between the public sector and the private sector."

While Cambodia's economy has grown over time, it slowed last year, said Kang Chandararot, Director of the Cambodia Institute of Development Study. "This slow pace may affect foreign investment."