I have a great pleasure to return to HRDI today to present our graduates with their degrees and as the Director Seng Phally mentioned it is my fifth presence here. Indeed it is my first appearance after taking a break for ten days due to illness. Illness is an equal justice as anyone may fall sick and this program is a lucky one that it does not fall on the period. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my apology for being unable to attend three programs – 1) annual meeting with leaders of trade unions; 2) meeting with workers of SIhanoukville and 3) presenting diploma for the graduates of the Royal School of Administration. I also had cancelled my appointment with foreign guests as well.
I would like to take this occasion to express my joy for the 2,186 graduates who have successfully completed their studies. As you all can see that we have tried twice to build this place to accommodate students and meet the needs of HRDI. Also, I wish to share with parents and sponsor whose efforts and sacrifices have brought about these achievements – your graduations today. Parents’ sacrifices have brought you knowledge which would eventually add to the country’s human resources that are in dire need.
According to the report by Mr. Seng Phally HRDI has indeed developed itself from a non-governmental organization in human resource development area into a tertiary education foundation. I think the management committee as well as their professors deserves our appreciation and praise for their efforts in getting our children ready with their knowledge and skill for job market.
I wish to remind all of the graduates that your education in school has been completed indeed but it should not be an end by this graduation ceremony. You should try and go on to higher stage of education or to the start of job that you may find out in our market. I think at your age you have more chance to go on this way since the country’s situation is in its best compared to previous ones. It is a diamond opportunity for Cambodia, which has indeed been hard to find in our history.
Thus far some countries are involved in fighting, terrorist attacks and troubles and I would say our situation has been a favorably lucky one for us. Take for instance, how many lives have been killed and buildings have been demolished by bomb attacks everyday in Iraq? There are armed clashes in Sri Lanka and the Tamil tigers have been able to drop bomb on the Sri Lankan military air base, etc. We have passed those stages already and are now in the stage of uniting for peace and reconciliation as well as political stability.
Demolition of over 20,000 rifles has not been by chance but a precursor for a political stability, security and social order. Despite the fact that many rifles have been destroyed, some illegal possession and use of weapons by rogues have caused crimes, still. It is indeed not a simple matter in term of gun control. Take the United States of America, there was this school shooting that killed 30 peoples… I do not mean to teach the great power on gun control issue but to give you all a comparison of what happened in different parts of the world.
Peace is indeed a very important matter and it is indeed an opportunity for us to develop the country. I often make an analogy that our development would take a pace of a frog leap. It is like in our Khmer language “drop by drop the bucket is full.” We all can witness what has happened in this pace since we are not people living outside the country. Take for instance HRDI is situated in this area where in the war between 1970 and 1975, shelling reached from across the river at Arey Khsat (in the district of Lovea Em of Kandal Province, across the Mekong from Phnom Penh). As long as war goes on no bridge or road could sustain. There was this Iraq Reconstruction Conference but no matter how much money they promised, it could not address the scale of on-going destruction on a daily basis like that. The same is true as in Afghanistan. That’s why we have to unite for peace, political stability, national reconciliation and democracy and political leadership should be obtained by elections.
Last night I stayed up late for the election results in France and I saw that once HE Nicolas Sarkozy is declared the winner, Madame Segolene Royal – the runner-up offered her praise to his victory. HE Sarkozy also praised those who voted for Madame Royal. This is what I see as a democratic culture. In Cambodia, we also have a good election on April 1 and the Khmer New Year on April 14. No matter which political party individual citizens may vote for, we all went to Buddhist temples and enjoy the ceremony. I think we have to work harder for such culture to take root. As we are in the fifty’s and sixty’s already I think we should try to leave our younger generation positive heritage and not such a state that our generation have suffered.
We all are victims to misleadership of the past regimes. As I used to say in my youth there was war in the country so I could not be held as the one who is responsible for that war in Cambodia. On the contrary I am one of millions who contributed for peace on this land and who helped set up a culture of democracy in Cambodia. Aside from the UN supervised election, the 1998, 2002, 2003, 2007 and the forthcoming 2008 elections – have been and will be held according to schedule. In 1998, we had hundreds of reasons to cancel the elections. The election in 1998 was a year from the armed clashes in Phnom Penh. Some countries in the region and elsewhere staged a coup and promised this and that schedule for elections. Some even amended their Constitutions as we have seen this trouble going on in Bangladesh, for instance. But in Cambodia we hold the elections to the schedule. It is therefore important to have and maintain peace as I usually said “as long as we maintain the forest, we should not worry about firewood.”
Take Cambodia in to context, though we have issue of HIV/AIDS, bird flu, UXOs, land grabbing and certain corruption issues, we have noticed in the system as a whole two important elements that are relating with each other. On one hand we have peace and development moving forwards while political stability and the country’s macro-economic stability, especially in the past months have been in better shape. I take these issues seriously. Our people since the water festival last year had spent a lot of money but our Riel currency does not seem to depreciate. This clearly proves that our macro-economy is in its favorable condition and our financial reform is giving us opportunity to develop our country.
Taking this opportunity I would like to share with you our country’s challenges. Job is among the most important challenges and it is clearly stated in my remark of Ten Disequilibrium that the Royal Government has to address. I wish to reiterate Ten Equilibriums here for the sake of your understanding and for our Government officials and the armed forces of all levels to get a gist of them. I consider them string ends to a knot that the Royal Government – in short, medium or long term – will have to take up these challenges. Peace, political stability, democratization and human rights are prime conditions for the ten equilibriums to be addressed. First, we need to have a balance between demand and supply. Take for instance we have an increase of population which means more demand for food. This is accounting for a corresponding supply. In 1979, we ate anything that was edible. But we now have to possess a habit of eating a tasty and healthy food.
In this equilibrium we should look into issues of clothing, housing, transport means, education and health which should be the five elements in this disequilibrium. For all these we have to give our efforts in providing land to producers, removing UXOs and mines, while attention must be given to improve infrastructure. Some politicians because they wanted votes in their support badly they fool voters that if they were to get elected they would give out foreign donation to people. The Japanese Government built Cambodia the Kizuna Bridge and we inaugurated it but we did not even see the money.
Second – we have to address the disequilibrium between national income and expenses. We noticed that in the past years we have increased both income and expense. We have conducted a financial reform aimed at strengthening our income. We also thank those who have expressed their concern on issue of oil. If they were to be concerned when the country was under the genocide and war of destruction, Cambodia would perhaps not lose a lot of lives. But when we have discovered oil they sound out their concern on issue that is not should not be a concern. Some economists said they do not have access to data on oil so that they could conduct a study. What do you say when the Prime Minister also does not have the data? This was all estimation and they have accused us of not being transparent. How could it be if the Government has yet to get a data from Chevron?
All income will be channeled through the national budget and so will expenses. In our national budget we already have prioritized areas according to the Government’s rectangular strategy where the initial 6 priorities are to be added with another two. However we have no oil yet so there is no income from oil yet. We have to garner efforts in collecting tax. As I said we do not have to increase tax only to tax all taxable internally. Starting from 1999 the Royal Government does not make any financial advance from the Bank nor print more notes. The country has noted two-digit economic growths in recent years and in 2006 it has come to 14%.
Three – disequilibrium in exports and imports. We continue to have a situation that our import is bigger than export. In my meeting with the South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, I made a suggestion to him that RoK should try to help reduce trade imbalances between our two countries. He said Korean tourists to Cambodia are in greater number than the Cambodian to Korea and this should be a redress. In general we have noticed increase in exports to take the figure into consideration in 1994 our exports were 463 US dollars and in 2006, we have a figure of 3,556 million US dollars.
Four – between currency and goods. We have to maintain the Riel purchasing power. Five – between living condition of Government officials and the armed forces and their salaries in accordance with economic growth. We have made an increase of 15% per annum to the payroll and we have been doing it three years in a row. I have ordered the Ministry of Economy and Finance to give me its estimation of the percentage possible for a further increase. I am still waiting for a response when HE Keat Chhon returns from Japan. We are not making promises but do exactly what the country’s budget can. Some politicians like to make empty promises. I am of the view that once the country’s oil is becoming real part of it will go into increasing salary.
Six – between increase of labor and jobs. It is true that in this world there is no country where all of their citizens are Government employees. Some politicians are making promises to their supporters with ranks of district heads and other ranks in the Government. We would urge you to see many jobs we have created by building a road or a canal. We are introducing amendments in the article 139 and 144 of the Labor Law aimed at creating more jobs for our workers. We are looking for factories to create a night shift so that more workers could have jobs. If 50% of the current factories cooperate we will have at least 200,000 workers on the job.
Seven – between need for development and supply of human resources. A country could not do well just with a policy but it needs human or people to implement it. Eight – between development and poor infrastructure. It in this context the Royal Government is streamlining its efforts in building roads, bridges, canals, electricity, running water, etc. We also are in the process to search for a possibility to lower the price of electricity too.
Nine – between development and transparency, sustainability and inefficient governance. We have to make effort to improve our good governance which means to combat against corruption and improve public service for the people. Ten – last but not least – is the disequilibrium between regional and world integration and unsophisticated infrastructure. Cambodia has become members of many organizations and I am challenging five countries along the Mekong to form a Rice Exporting Countries because the five countries export a great deal of rice to the world (about 14 million metric tons). Facing all these challenges we ask, “Where are our human resources? infrastructure? and software relating to by law?”
Thank you very much for your attention to my presentation of the Ten Disequilibrium once again and to inform you about the need to amend the Labor Law for the sake of providing more jobs to our workers. I express my sincere thank to the graduates for making their studies a success and wish them access to the job market./.