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Multiple Skills Needed To Compete in a Future Asean, Economist Says

The officers of U.N.-backed genocide tribunal meet high school students at Ek Phnom district in Battambang province, as they distribute recent verdict books of Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav, northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 5, 2011.
Young Cambodians must develop diverse workplace skills if they are to compete in an integrated Asean, a leading economist and adviser to the government says.

“We have to make sure we are able to do multiple things if others are able to do just one,” the adviser, Sok Siphana, told “Hello VOA” Monday. “If they know only one language, we need to know two.”

Asean countries are seeking economic integration by 2015, but observers have warned that Cambodia lacks the human resources to compete in a truly integrated economic bloc.

“The problem of our weak Khmer students today results from their lack of a reading habit,” Sok Siphana said. “They learn just to pass, but not to know. So when they graduate, they have the only the skill acquired at school. So the trick is that they have to further cultivate a spirit of learning.”

However, some callers to “Hello VOA” said that the lack of competitive spirit among students is not their fault, as they see around them the effects of nepotism and corruption.

“In state institutions, they bring in only their family members, relatives or those paying bribes to work, so how can young people compete for positions in those institutions?” asked one caller, from Phnom Penh.

“Mostly, children from the rich and powerful families do not have to learn, but they can obtain degrees and work in the government, so this affects the fair competition for youth,” said another caller, from Prey Veng province.

Sok Siphana said nepotism and dependency on family are somewhat built into the Cambodian culture.

“We must admit that some of our Khmer culture is not good for competition,” he said. “But if individually we can create a spirit of competition from the beginning, then we can compete domestically and, later on, regionally.”