Human Resource Training and Job Markets
My wife and I are so happy today to join with all of you in the ceremony to present diplomas for 2,751 graduates of the University of Asia-Europe. As of this time, since 2003, I have been presiding over the graduation ceremony for UAE’s graduation five times now. According to the report by HE Duong Lieng, Rector of UAE, it is remarkably encouraging that some 91% of students graduated from the UAE have got a job, suggesting a good training program that is responding to the job market.
Training is not just a matter in itself. A response to the job market is more importantly our requirement. What is the good if skills achieved from training could not find our graduates any jobs to do? It is a great help that this general development in the private sector increases job availability. It is with this note that I go on providing support to private sector’s role for further involvement human resources training.
Scholarships for Foreign Students and Blood Donation
I have some suggestions for all Cambodian tertiary institutions to consider. Firstly, would it be possible for our Universities to set aside some scholarships provided for low-income family students and share them with foreign students? I would urge for thorough discussion among all private universities on this issue. We should take the matter of hostels and per diem into thought. If our private universities could do that, I am sure that it will empower the Cambodian Prime Minister’s stand in bilateral relations with other countries.
Secondly, I noted that the University has championed in providing assistance to community and society. In addition to this I would suggest you also consider what I have proposed during my visit to the School of Medical Care Techniques about blood donation. A large number of people are students in universities and their donations of blood would do a world of change to our ability to help and save lives. This is not by any means to force you to do so but it is a point that universities could promote along with their community efforts.
Thanks for the US Scholarship
It is no longer possible to depend solely on state’s budget to provide opportunity for everyone to get tertiary education. I think this is the general trend one may observe in the world. There was the other day, in the Cambodia Daily newspaper, an article about the scholarship offered to Hun Many (one of the Prime Minister’s sons) by a University in the United States of America. I am sure you must have seen or read it. The whole scholarship package has been reported to be 255,000 USD (for the academic year of 2009-2010, M. A. Degree in Strategic Security Studies, College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University (NDU), USA).
The newspaper went on to say about Hun Manet, my eldest son, who also received a scholarship of 175,000 USD for his study at the US Military Academy at West Point. I do not get what’s behind the sudden public disclosure through the paper but I have the duty to thank the United States of America for providing opportunity for the two of them. It should be noted that among other students, those who come from Cambodia are the youngest of all. My sons have won the US scholarships and have had chance to study in one of their best military academies. Though the scholarships have been offered out of kindness, I still have to express my wholehearted thanks and appreciation.
Raising this issue for your awareness is because I want to assure you that chances that anyone country offers scholarship would be within a limited scale. As in the current trend in the Cambodian tertiary education system, many countries have embarked more on the path of fee-paying enrolments in addition to state offers. It is for this benefit that we are calling for more participation from the private sector to invest in expanding human resource availability and development.
Continuing Investment in Human Resources
As is said by HE Duong Lieng, UAE has planned for a new twelve storey building in order to cater to the need for more space to serve the purpose of human resource training. It should be noted too that we now have many private tertiary education institutions, where buildings from 8 to ten storeys have sprung up to respond to the increasing demands. Human resource training and development is like growing a tree. It would take from 14 years to 16 and 18 years respectively for a bachelor, master and PH D respectively. The difference here from human resource training to growing tree, is that the latter would take less time. I would say in other words to grow capable human resources takes longer time than to grow any kind of fruit tree.
This has brought me to what I have written in “Ten Years of Cambodia’s March,” the book that I finished writing in Vientiane in 1988 and was published in 1989 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the January 7 victory day. Among others, I touched on issue of human resource training in general, the field of education in particular. I stated clearly that the Ministry of Education is making never-ending investment and never bringing back capital return. As far as financial capital is concerned, whatever amount put in the field of education would not bring back return. However, the fruit of investments will be collectable in factories, enterprises and all other sectors of society.
It is because of the long-term investment returns that both state and private sectors have the duty to work together for human resource development. It has been a success in many recent years that parents and sponsors have taken the burdens of paying fees for their children and kin to continue their studies. There has also been clear commitment for this endeavor too that fees collected from those students have been used not only for tuition fees but also for building more training facilities and developing teaching tools.
Hailing Students’ Personal Endeavors
Having come this far, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for efforts of all graduates in completing their studies. I also highly evaluate the job seeking record keeping of UAE graduates, which I read to you earlier that there are up to 91% of them who could find a job to do. I would like to have your attention that sometimes though one may not find exactly what one has been trained for, one has also had to adapt to the job that is being offered.
You should look at it in a way that by holding on to a job that is not along with the sort of training you have, you will actually possess a new one. What is even more important here is the fact that I have noticed some 3.73% of the graduates have opted for self employments and from their careers, these people have also employed more. It has been a great chance for many that UAE has offered short-course programs of four months, six months and one year. These should allow many to make personal endeavors to achieve attainment of updated development and knowledge.
Some graduates might have taken my word on that. Why should they go for jobs in the agricultural sector, for example, while they have had training in accounting? You may understand that should agriculture be defunct, there also would not be money anywhere for you to practice accounting expertise.
Mitigation to Financial Crisis Impacts
If we were to look back to what happened in the time of financial crisis and economic downturn in 2008-2009, you may notice that we have made all-out efforts to mitigate the impacts. It is essentially so when the country suffered decline of order to its garments leading to closures of many factories. Job loss became a serious concern and serious solution to the problem has to be worked out so as to guarantee that our slogan of no one would die of hunger would not fail.
As a newly industrialized country, despite suffering impacts from the world financial crisis which brought about, as I said, closure of factories, Cambodians have been quite resilient to the job loss as they have not completely disconnected themselves from farmers’ livelihoods. This has allowed them to return home to their families immediately after they had to leave workplaces for the above reason. This pattern of mitigation to the impacts, however, is applicable only in this particular period that Cambodia is a newly industrialized country. We could not anticipate what to bear when the country would have to go through crisis and downturn in the future.
Agriculture employs 75% of the whole population. This has not only provided jobs for the vast majority of the people but also effectively helped mitigate hardships of their families’ members in time of crisis. Efforts have also been made by the Royal Government and concerned institutions in providing those laid off from closing factories with short-term training programs so as to adapt them to a new environment, skills and different job behavior. This is a good point that we must keep in mind and draw out experiences for developing mechanism that will eventually be helpful in time of crisis later. I think the short-term training programs offered by UAE, with the supports of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and concerned institutions, have proven to be practical in dealing with situation like that.
Agriculture Has Been Resilient
The (Cambodian) economy has made a comeback in almost all sectors in 2010-2011. What I wanted to share with you here is my notice that in time of crisis, the agricultural sector has been and continued to be resilient to crisis impacts. In other words, for this sector, we have obtained opportunity from the crisis. Cambodian farmers have reaped profits because of the rising of world food prices. It has been the case that in time of crisis, city dwellers were having harder time than those living in the countryside.
As for farmers, despites the fact that they faced with problems of hiking prices of their input materials and lacking credit sources, still their produces have met with higher demands. It is particularly so that in time of crisis Cambodia could still bring down more than 1% of its poverty rate. This has brought us to the remaining poverty rate of 26, 2% compared to over 30% in 2007. The trend of bringing down 1% or over of poverty rate per annum has not failed in time of crisis thanks to the resilience and continuing advancement in the field of agriculture. It has been an effective part to the national economy.
A country has to develop all sectors. Agriculture is one of them. No development anywhere in this world abandons farming, even among developed countries. Some people have agitated Cambodians about building factories for screws and nuts for airplanes in Cambodia. Some political parties may deride us when we are talking about agriculture and farmers. Have they ever attempted to think and ask question like “is there any country in the world that goes without farmers or workers?” Is it that all of their people are millionaires? Look we recently have a war of cucumber in Europe, which has not yet come to its end. There was also this mad cow disease there.
You may ask who actually grows the cucumber and/or raise those cows. Are they not farmers? The only difference here between them and us is that they apply better technology and have better means to do what they have been doing so far. Is not it what we are trying to achieve here? We have steps to follow as these countries have gone ahead hundreds of years before us. In Japan’s Oita prefecture, my wife and I went to collect leaves (wasabi? that is to be consumed raw with sashimi) and we met a collector there with a basket on her back like hill people in our country. She went from leaf to leaf and bundled every ten of them with a rubber band. See, not everyone in Japan is boss. They also have wage workers or farmers.
How come urging people to do better than what they have been doing could be wrong? Why encouraging agricultural extension workers to help our people with what they have been doing could be wrong? I need everyone to see the connections here in our economy.
Rice Export – Gold to Wrap
With agricultural resilient development, in time of crisis, Cambodia is not only food self-sufficient but also exporting a certain amount of rice too. With the Royal Government’s policy to encourage rice cultivation for export, this year Cambodia got a surplus of almost four million tons of paddy rice or 2.5 million tons of milled-rice for export. We are now in the stage of needing more investment in milling so as to increase and improve the quality of rice for that purpose. Unpractical commercial rice collection and below-standard milling capacity have restrained export from reaching the expectation.
The Royal Government has done everything it can to push for capital provision into this sector, including 50% of risk guaranty for private banks. So far the private banks seem not interested in this business. In face of these constraints, we have been required to sell paddy rice to neighboring countries, which we know for sure has been a loss of income, value added and jobs. If we were able to mill rice ourselves, we would be able to increase the profit margin from broken parts of rice, rice brands and husks. In other respect, it is because agricultural emergence has been all of a sudden that we have not been able to cope with it. So far private sector is interested more in property investment such as hotels.
Many have placed their capitals in over 100 hotels in Siem Riep city and some 159 hotels in Phnom Penh. They seemed to lack the courage to invest in agriculture. There are reasons for them to hesitate. The country suffered floods and droughts in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004, which diminished agricultural availability and marketability. We still lack canals that provide for irrigation. All of these have placed us in this situation that I compared to a proverb in Khmer that goes “there has not got paper to wrap the gold.” However, lately, we have seen more expressions of interests from both local and external partners to go into this business. This has elevated our hope for exporting of over one million tons of rice by 2015.
Expectations and Signs of Economic Recovery
As I said earlier that agriculture has proven to be resilient and making progress in time of crisis. We are hoping to reap benefit from rubber because we have planted a vast area of rubber. One good thing here is that rubber now can be grown on any soil condition, whereas before rubber trees are known to be growing well only on old magma soil. The only clue that makes a great difference here is the variety with which our people have had to choose. Having said that, to display a stronger role of the Cambodian agriculture, along with rice, Cambodia will soon jump into expanding its rubber business.
For your information, our garment industry is also recovering along with tourism. Though their comebacks are not yet equally strong as those before the crisis, but they are back here. A note should also be taken on the slow recovery of property market while Cambodia has just had its securities exchange (CSX) open on July 11, three days ago. You will agree with me that every one of us, as well as the country itself, has to make personal endeavor to help oneself as no one would do so for us./.