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Economic Downturn Felt in Cambodian Stores

As the global economy continues to worsen, vendors in Cambodia say their daily business has begun to suffer.

At the Red Moon restaurant, behind the Hotel Inter-Continental on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, owner Nhem Sothear lamented the fall in his guest numbers.

“I’ve seen a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction from the rate before,” he said recently. “Before, they used to spend $100; now they spend only $80 to $70, or $50. It’s not so negative, it’s still positive, but it’s only at a small level. We used to make a good income, but now it is not so much.”

Sot Visal, general manager for the Phnom Khmer restaurant, near Silep market, said the economic downturn was costing him 30 percent to 40 percent of his custom, while some restaurants have closed altogether or are reducing staff.

“When the world has a bad economic crisis like that, we lose a lot of our clients,” he said.

A woman named Angeli, at a clothing store called “I Love You,” said customers had started asking for cheap clothes, rather than worrying about high quality.

“Most of my clients are very reluctant with the price,” she said, noting that her store had just opened. “They want cheap clothes but of poor quality.”

The worsening consumer climate in Cambodia is echoing that in other countries, especially America, following the collapse of the housing and subprime lending markets.

Economist Sok Sina said the downturn was hurting Cambodia’s economic growth rate, dropping it from a high of 13 percent in 2006 to between a projected 4 percent and 6 percent in 2009.

“Cambodia’s economy mainly depends on industry, agriculture and service,” he said. “If the countries in the West, Europe and Asia meet an economic crisis, they will reduce their spending on food, clothes and tourism. These factors can hurt Cambodia’s economy.”