Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have a great pleasure to join you all in this national workshop to launch the General Population Census Plan 2008 of Cambodia, which is an important work for our country.
We are all pretty well aware that the world’s demographic structure has been changed rapidly unlike what we had experienced before. In particular, the world population has increased by 2 billions in the last 20 years of the 20th Century reaching 6 billions by the Year 2000. Due to declining fertility rate among women, it is expected that the population will increase by another 2 billions in the first decade of the 21st Century. However, it is noted that this increase mostly happens in the developing countries especially in those poorest countries and urban areas. Thus, in general, the population census will reflect the demographic status of those countries and help their respective governments to formulate specific policies and programs balancing the population growth and development.
Population census is the only source of information about the size and nature of population. A sound census in terms of scope and desegregation will provide information on population numbers in the regions and even in their smaller sub-groups. The census would also provide sampling framework as well as population baselines, serving the purpose of population simulation and forecasting, which is important for planning. Moreover, census is conducted by international definition and classification. Thus, the census data can provide comparable basic development indicators among different countries. Finally, the census information is also useful for democratic process such as for planning the voting pools.
The UNFPA, a multilateral partner, has for long played a leading role in helping build the capacity in data collection and census in developing countries. Clearly, many countries of different continents are not able to conduct census if there is no external assistance. After interruption in more than 36 years, the first Population Census of Cambodia was successfully conducted in 1998, with the only support from UNFPA. Thus, I would like to take this opportunity to deeply thank the UNFPA for this effort.
Indeed, many countries and their development partners are now facing the challenges in meeting the MDGs, which were universally agreed through the Millennium Declaration 2000. Nevertheless, measuring the progress in achieving MDG targets is based on available census information and data. Primary data on the number and nature of population, census of population and housing are important for realizing the MDG targets and for other development plans. In this sense, the census information presents a solid basis for monitoring and reviewing MDGs targets. Census can provide immediate indicators for monitoring and reviewing targets in education, gender, mortality and environment. Moreover, the socio-economic surveys can also provide direct indicators for monitoring poverty and HIV/AIDS prevalence.
Based on the 1998 Census, the Cambodian population was 11.4 million. Available population data provide information on the size, age structure and growth rate of population with estimated fertility and mortality rates. The characteristics of Cambodian population are similar to those of developing countries, which is the recovery from wartime consequences and large scale out migration. During Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979), it is revealed that very low sex ratios are in the age groups 40-44 onwards. The Census reported the high sex ratios are in the age groups 5-9 and 10-14. This is because of the baby boom during the early 1980s after the collapse of Pol Pot era, and the fertility rate among women is high in the subsequent years.
According to a regression analysis, the Cambodian population will further increase even though the fertility rate among women is low. The population growth during the current first half decade is 1.9 percent per annum. This is due to the growth pattern among women group who borne during high fertility generation between 1980 and 1995. By the end of this decade, our population will reach 15 million.
In order the development to improve the welfare among our people, especially eliminating the poverty; it requires increased gender equity, improved health and human resource as well as the environment. Thus, as demographic factors are closely linked to those targets, any strategy taking into account the population issues will be successful. The national population policy of Cambodia is the outcome gained from the Cambodia Population Census 1998 and Health and Demographics Survey 2000 and other related studies, which aim to improve social conditions and expand individual choices. Indeed, it is crucial to recognize the population issues and their rights, capacity and opportunities which are very useful for individuals and society and the stable relations with the environment. A sustainable development policy should take into consideration of population growth and distribution, movement of people, vulnerability and empowerment of people especially women. Thus, the results of this census will be crucial in all these contexts.
Past experiences and specific studies have reflected that changing population growth, age structure and population distribution are closely linked to the environment and development. Rapid population growth in developing countries has resulted in polluted environment and water, changed climate, lost biodiversity, fisheries and other maritime and coastline resources as well as degraded farming lands.
Indeed, in countries with high but decreasing fertility rate, the population growth will slow down, which can easily solve the environmental problems. This is also an important economic benefit as it reduces the number of children under the working age, and increases the opportunity of the government to focus on investing in health, education, and infrastructure and environment protection.
The RGC has attached great attention on reforms in all sectors with the objective to reduce poverty of the people, which becomes the core of every policy and development strategy of the Royal Government, especially the “Rectangular Strategy”, in which the Royal Government has clearly stated the importance of promoting economic growth, creating jobs and ensuring full employment for Cambodians, enhancing equality and social justice as well as strengthening efficiency in public sector through the implementation of in-depth and comprehensive reforms. In order to develop such a vision within the Rectangular Strategy, the Royal Government and its development partners agree on establishing the National Strategic Development Plan for 2006-2010 that is the combination of the MDGs, Socio-Economic Development Plan 2001-2005, National Poverty Reduction Strategy 2003-2005 and Governance Action Plan including the Public Administration Reform’s elements at the national level.
Indeed, I am really excited by the results of the recent Cambodian Socio-Economic Survey, which shows that poverty in Cambodia has fallen by 10-15 percent between 1994 and 2004. If based on the 1993 survey which covered 56% of Cambodia’s territory, there has been a rapid decline in poverty levels from 39 to 28 percent. This implies that there was a decline of at least 1 percent every year as expected by the RGC. Moreover, per capita daily consumption of the people has increased by 32% in real terms.
At the same time, since the new Law on Statistics came into force in May 2005, there is the clear scope of responsibility, smooth relations between different tasks and increased efficiency of decentralized statistical system. Moreover, the Law on Statistics and other related sub-decrees shall provide a framework for necessary tasks and enhancing the integration of statistical activities into national statistical system. In addition, the Law on Statistics should also provide the National Institute of Statistics with the ability to implement its activities in a wider, clearer and legal based manner, especially in relation to its role as the facilitator in statistical works. On top of that, the Statistics Council will also be established in order to assist the Ministry of Planning in developing the National Statistical System.
I am also pleased to note that the continuing capacity building at the NIS through conducting censuses and surveys with supports from donors, which always include the capacity building provision as an important element. I also appreciate the fact that the NIS is equipped with high qualified and experienced staff and officials in conducting censuses. At the same time, we can never forget the technical assistance provided by UNFPA to conduct the previous census, which has importantly contributed to the knowledge transfer and capacity building for our staff at the national level through census activities. Indeed, the training programs on censuses and surveys for officials and staff at different levels have helped creating core groups of trainers who can later provide trainings to other staffs and officials at local levels. It is necessary to train staffs and officials at national level to be able to develop and improve data, analyze census results and geo-information system.
The 2008 Population Census Plan of Cambodia, which is one of the main statistical tasks, will enhance professional skills of our staff at the National Institute of Statistics, especially in the fields of data collection, evaluation, development as well as statistics presentation, data analysis and dissemination. Indeed, these experiences will go along with further capacity strengthening in managing statistical tasks and population related activities as well as enhancing broader dissemination and use of data.
We can observe that the capacity in population data collection, data processing and dissemination at national level has been greatly improved. Nevertheless, the capacity of our officials in conducting data analysis and interpretation is still limited. This requires internal trainings on data analysis for the future.
As I have mentioned earlier, the 2008 Population Census of Cambodia is of great importance, especially when there is an increasing demand from ministries/institutions, development partners, planners and researchers in updating their plans and programmes. This requires reliable social and population data. Conducting censuses is an immense task that none of any government of any developing country can take over by its own. This task requires both technical and financial assistance from every concerning actors. This is an important task that entails quality and reliability.
For this reason, what are the requirements needed for the successful completion of the 2008 census? There are surely adequate and timely financial resources as well as necessary technical assistance.
Up to now, we have received technical assistance and financing from UNFPA and JICA. In addition, we will need additional contributions to fill in the huge budget gaps. In order to successfully complete the 2008 Population Census of Cambodia with international standards, I urge the development partners, both bilateral and multilateral as well as the civil society and the private sector to provide additional contributions in terms of technical and financial supports to carry out this immense task.
I wish to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation for the 2008 census plan and the dissemination of its results in 2009-2010. This is a remarkable and proud achievement. I also take this occasion to urge the officials and staffs whoever takes part in implementing activities in this census plan to exert utmost attention to carry out timely data analysis and dissemination.
I also highly appreciate the great efforts of the management and officials at all levels of the Ministry of Planning who have initiated and organized this “Workshop on the 2008 General Population Census Plan of Cambodia”. I also wish to thank the development partners, NGOs, civil society, private sector and data users who are interested in the conduct of the 2008 population census of Cambodia and who have participated in today workshop. I am convinced that discussions throughout the workshop will improve the census plan and serve as solid basis for government’s efforts in mobilizing financial and technical assistance to successfully complete this 2008 census.
Before ending my remarks, I wish the workshop success and strongly hope that participants will contribute many good ideas on how to improve and conduct the 2008 population census of Cambodia. Finally, I wish you all the five gems of Buddhist blessings.