Let’s face it in many ways Cambodia seems disconnected from other parts of South East Asia. While the world marvels at the economic powerhouses of Singapore and Hong Kong and lauds the development leaps of Thailand and Malaysia, it often seems that Cambodia is being left behind. We never get to see international music legends on worldwide tours here and the top professional sports teams never visit. It often seems as though Cambodia is missing out.
Going for pizza in Asia is like buying new David Bowie albums – you remember how good it’s been in the past, and you really want it to be good this time, but you know in your heart of hearts that disappointment is the only likely outcome. You wander in whistling Heroes or Life on Mars, you shuffle out humming Hello Spaceboy.
I live in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, just a short tuk-tuk ride from Asok BTS station. The balcony of my condo has fantastic views of the gleaming towers of the ‘new’ Bangkok – shopping centres, luxury hotels, office blocks. In 10 minutes I can be shopping at Tesco, Boots or H&M, sipping a latte at Starbucks, or having lunch at McDonalds, Burger King or Subway. In short, this part of Bangkok, the part in which, along with Silom, most tourists spend their time, is much like any other modern city.
In 2012/2013 applications to the UK’s Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS) dropped 6.3% year on year and it is expected that this trend will continue for 2013/2014 admissions. In actual terms, this means that there were 40,000 less applicants for university places in the UK which represents a significant fall.
The reason for this is in large part due to the introduction of tuition fees. The majority of universities in the UK charge the maximum permitted amount for British students of £9000 ($14,500), which means that many families having to prioritise how they spend their income simply do not view sending their children to university as money well spent.
Current bank interests are so risible that even money held in interest paying deposit accounts is losing value. The rate paid is not keeping pace with inflation so in real terms, people saving in these accounts are actually losing money. It is a frustrating situation for people looking to save for their future, but if you want to grow your savings in real terms you need to invest in something that is offering a real return.
Every year, the students at Phnom Penh’s Northbridge International School complete a 24-hour challenge to raise money for charity. Over the past few years, the students’ excellent efforts have led to thousands of dollars being raised for charities in Cambodia and Africa. At the same time, the event encourages the children to think about others less fortunate than themselves as well as engaging them to work together in a fun and healthy collaborative challenge.
People talk about it at the water cooler, or over drinks after work. They talk about tossing it all in and buying a one-way ticket to someplace else. Maybe somewhere overseas, to some rustic third-world capital where the living is cheap and the weather is always perfect.