I am so happy to be able to join with all of you to preside over the graduation and diploma presentation ceremony for 214 graduates but also to hand out the Samdech Techo Hun Sen Vision 100 for 100 successfully contested students. On behalf of the successful candidates, I would like to express my deep thanks for the effort and initiative made by Dr. Haruhisa Handa, Founder and President of the International Foundation for Arts and Culture, Chancellor of the University of Cambodia and my advisor, together with other institutions and persons involved to help Cambodia improve its education sector.
It is also joyful that we have today the presence of Dr. Rikhi Thakral, President of the Thakral Holding Group of Singapore, who is among those who provide the Samdech Techo Hun Sen Vision 100 since 2008. As for Dr. Handa, he provided the Samdech Techo Hun Sen-Handa scholarships for 500 students each year since 2007, 2008 and 2009 before it was declared Samdech Techo Hun Sen Vision 100 scholarship in 2010. This is the fourth time that another 100 Samdech Techo Hun Sen Vision 100 for 2011/2012 scholarships are provided for outstanding and needy students who have successfully competed in scholarship examination on Khmer general knowledge and English proficiency.
With the Cooperation of Chairman of the University of Cambodia, out of the 4,577 students who took the scholarship examination, 100 of them have been selected. It is a good screening process. I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation for students who won the scholarships and have taken up their studies already. Today we officially celebrate their scholarship achievements. As for the grand total of tuition fees provided for the 100 scholarships, the Samdech Techo Hun Sen Vision 100 is 240,000 USD.
For those who did not have a chance to win the scholarships, as is said in the speech by Dr. Handa, we urge them to seek for education opportunity with other institutions, whether as scholarship or fee paying students. Also reported in the report of HE Im Setthi, Minister for Education, Youth and Sports, for the school year of 2011/2012, the state has provided some 6,000 scholarships to students who have finished the senior secondary school education. Many students have taken studies in both state and private universities and tertiary education institutions. Together with private scholarship provision, it appears that we now have more and more scholarships to provide for the students.
This is a proud achievement in the establishment of what is called soft infrastructure. It is known to all that we have both soft and hard infrastructures, which are equally important for the country’s development. We are talking about legal and human resources, procedures and institutional capacity, well, to say in brief. It is common that human resources contribute fundamentally to national development.
Yesterday I went to see over the development efforts concerning hard infrastructure, i.e. road construction, which will link up the city of Tbeng Meanjei of Preah Vihear province to other areas in the north and northeast. We will have the national road 64 that runs from Tbeng Meanjei through to Stoeng Treng province, to Ratanakiri and on to Mondulkiri province before it comes back down to eastern part of the country at national road seven at Snuol of Kratie. We are also building roads that will link up the North and the Northwest.
It is our vision to achieve connectivity in development of different regions. While we are doing bitumen for national roads, efforts have also been made to DBST our provincial, district and rural roads. The rich and the poor, the urban and the rural people are using the roads – national, provincial and rural altogether. Along with this, schools are built in locations adjacent to people’s communities so that rural and urban children follow same education curriculum. As we used to say at present schools are being built for rural children.
We have made efforts to bring down the intellectual gap between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural people so that they have equal chance of being exposed and trained with knowledge and know-how. We have even striven to achieve my vision of having at least one junior secondary school in a commune (in conformity with our Constitutional vision for education). As reviewed in 2008, the Santuk educational plan declared in 2002 seemed to have completed entirely.
Having achieved this goal, we also noted increasing deployments to various provinces – Siem Reap, Banteay Meanjei, Battambang, Svay Rieng, etc. of tertiary education services. This has allowed students who finished their senior secondary education to continue their studies – on scholarship or as fee paying students – to tertiary educational level. Has there been any country in the world where all of their people achieve a bachelor of some kind? I wonder how some politicians could fool people on that. Though leading a political party, some people do not have a university education yet. Some live in France, the United States of America, etc. but they do not achieve university education.
It is usually true that children of local Cambodians have made it far in their education in foreign countries or inside the country. The only problem our local kids seem to have is the fluency in foreign language. Some, who have lived in a foreign country for most of their lives, could not write properly in the language that they seem to speak rather well.
As far as this matter is concerned, in the Cambodia Daily the other day, there were news about my sons who were offered scholarships to study in the United States of America – one in the Military Academy at West Point and the other in National Defense University of the United States of America. The news wrote about how much the scholarship cost for my elder son to study in the US military academy at West Point and the estimate 170,000 USD scholarship offered to my younger son, who started his education in France since when he was between 11 and 12 years of age. He went on to finish his university in New York and to get a Master in Australia, to study in the National Defense University. I did not ask for or send him for it but he was selected for it.
We must seek a way to reduce intellectual gap among our people and the best way to do so is to invest in education. We are still far behind other ASEAN countries in terms of large roads, canals, luxurious hotels, etc. but I am sure Cambodia could provide our people/officials with chances for further educations and we must achieve a high education. We will ensure equal rights and footing on this matter.
There has been a Japanese investor who came to see and told me about his investment project to build a giant modern market adjacent to Koh Pij exhibition centre. He told me about his concern on human resources in seeking to find able workers to work in the market. He was asking for cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in orientating our education to serve for this need. I convince him that many of our students have graduated from private education institutions and the company should undergo selection examination for further skill training.
As far as income gap is concerned, I am pretty sure that there is no country on earth that ensures equal income across the board for their people. There seemed to be only one regime in the world, the Khmer Rouge’s collective living and eating society, might have ensured that. However, while people were slaves, the leadership organization (of Pol Pot) was slave owner. The Khmer Rouge’s leaders and their families lived happily and had good food. They even had the rights to take others’ lives. While saying people lived equally under their regime, their lives were subjected to being taken away anytime those leaders liked.
Take this income gap into consideration, in countries like the United States of America, etc. we may see if all of their people are millionaires. While they have richest men in the world, they also have workers. Some people have come to make others to believe as if no one could have known about reality in those countries, like Japan, France, etc. Politicians of this nature have fooled the people that if they were to win the elections, they would ensure that everyone is equal (in terms of wealth and income). They made it their promises that on being elected, they will take from the rich to give to the poor.
What in the world have we seen as far as income gap between the rich and poor is concerned? Has there been any country that ensures a successful completion of this objective? One may ask if Bill Gate’s income is somewhere similar to those people in the United States in general. As I have said earlier, to close down the income and wealth gaps is a hard job that we cannot ensure by time but we can try to ensure the reducing of the intellectual gap.
Not everyone could be the best. In the world, many people are workers and not all are leaders. Some people go on with their education but some would resort to skill training. As you may have learnt that current state of financial crisis, workers in those countries – US and/or Europe, are facing unemployment problems. It is clearly seen that President Barack Obama has taken various measures with an aim to fight job losses and unemployment. Situation in Europe has not been better anyhow as country like Greece seems to have fought a hard-to-win battle within the framework of conditions recommended by the International Monetary Fund and the European Community – to reduce spending, which includes also salary decrease, and to increase tax – two shots for endless demonstration. The British seems to be divided on the matter of a newly proposed EU treaty.
Concerning this mess, we also suffer in this crisis. The whole world is like a lump of sugar where every piece of it makes a whole. While the US and EU are suffering and bringing their orders down, Cambodia, as a producing country that provide for their orders, would also suffer ill business fate too. I am sure you guys have learnt about all this already, but I just want to bring it up here to back up our discussion about wealth and income gaps.
What we need to do now is to find a way for the low income people to earn more but not guaranteeing that they earn as much as those business owners and/or leaders. I have said already that this is not a particular case for Cambodia but a general one for all. We must ensure that bother workers and business owners are working together in harmony not as enemy. All of our people, especially students must be prepared well for more investors coming in.
In 2009, it to everyone knowledge, a number of factories closed down due to fall in purchase orders from those countries hit hard by the 2008/09 economic crisis. One person in the US who used to spend money on three sets of man suit (jackets and trousers of the same cuts), because of the economic crisis and job loss, the same person bought to only two pairs or even less per year. Though it was smaller in the previous years, this year purchase order jumps back up 10%.
As far as this year 2011 economic growth is concerned, we are now waiting for the figure to be generated from the agricultural sector. Cambodia has predicted own growth to be 6.4% for 2011. On the day we organized the Royal Government-Private Sector meeting, the World Bank ran its prediction to be 6% for Cambodia. Last week when I went to (inaugurate the hydropower plant of) Komjai, the Asian Development Bank gave its prediction figure of 6.8%. Later the IMF seems to give a more optimistic figure than the previous two. The three powerful financial institutions appear to be giving us different growth predictions.
In this circumstance Cambodia has got to play a mediating role. It is in this development that we have come to term of harmonization with partners. We want them to agree with each other in their efforts to help us. Harmonization – as I often said to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Finance HE Keat Chhon – is the term we coined for these institutions to get a deal in their efforts to help Cambodia. The Royal Government is speaking with one voice, but it is hard for us to go after different opinions from them. I just wonder how and why those economists are working out different predictions.
All in all, Cambodia is waiting for output roundup of agricultural sector, for which final evaluation will be available in April 2012, as we need to include figure of agricultural accomplishment in rainy and dry seasons. According to our estimates, even if the agricultural sector would sustain a 0% growth, Cambodia would have registered a 7% growth already. We have noted increases in industry, tourism, construction, etc. All eyes are on agriculture since about 220,000 hectares of rice suffered major damage from flood.
On my flight back from Preah Vihear province yesterday, I saw that the level of water in the Tonle Sap Lake seems to be still high, especially the village of Kuok Trabek. Usually, at this time of the year, area around the village starts growing dry season rice already. What concerns us here though is the fact that we have been given many different growth figures. Sometimes we are given a pessimistic growth figure but sometimes too positive ones. We will go on observing it as around Cambodia – especially Vietnam, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam told me in his visit to Cambodia, has had inflation of 18 per cent, whereas the press said it to be 20%. As you can see that countries around us – Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and China – are fighting inflation, which makes goods we imported from these countries coming with own inflation marks.
In just days ahead we will assume the ASEAN chair and I wish to urge all of Cambodian people that it is not only Hun Sen who will chair but the whole people of Cambodia do. Answering to the question if Cambodia would be able to conduct its chairing role, I may remind that in 2002 Cambodia was the ASEAN chair already. At that time we had only one Hotel to run everything. As of now, we have more facilities to cater to meetings relating to such important event. Instead of lacking spaces and facilities to organize meetings, Cambodia now has got the Prime Minister’s office Santepheap building, which could provide all facilities relating to the ASEAN Summit and concerned meetings.
We already hosted international level meetings such as the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the AP Mine Ban Convention where delegates from over one hundred countries and internationals organizations attended. We have used up to over four thousand staffs. To conduct Cambodian ASEAN chair’s role, we will host two summits there – once in April and again in November. We will host the meetings in the Santepheap building and all banquets will be organized at the Koh Pij exhibition centre, where there is a huge theatre hall which houses up to three thousand people. I instructed Deputy Prime Minister HE Hor Nam Hong to organize grandiose pieces of performance arts depicting (Angkor Wat’s bas-relief of) the churning of the ocean of milk (in which the Gods (Devas) and demons (Asuras) work together to obtain Amrita, which will guarantee them immortality) and various other new performance arts discoveries.
We have many rooms to cater to demand for meetings that are happening in synchronized time order without having to rearrange the same room every time to get ready for the next one. We now can conduct the ASEAN-China summit in one room, while having other rooms ready for the ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN-RoK Summits, etc. We also have two rooms ready for each member country delegation. One of our officials has worked as deputy secretary general of ASEAN before. So we will make efforts to be a responsible member and chair of ASEAN with an aim to ensure that member countries will get to the 2015 ASEAN Community target.
I also told HE Hor Nam Hong to contact the University of Cambodia for whatever number of staffs he may need to help with the organization of the ASEAN Summits and related meetings. Students with English proficiency should be selected and sent for training so that they could help us run the work. Having said that I am grateful to all partners, Dr. Handa and Dr. Rikhi Thakral are two of them, have done a great many things to help us with in this endeavor for human resource development./.