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Two Voices of the World Bank. Which One Says What?

By: Norbert Klein Posted: September-10-2010 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 681

On 8 and on 9 September 2010, two high level statements from the World Bank were reported. Here follow some excerpts:
The Phnom Penh Post reported:
Chief Economist Meets Hun Sen, Praises Cambodia

The Chief Economist of the World Bank Justin Yifu Lin praised Cambodia for its economic development at a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday.

“Despite the world facing the financial crisis, Cambodia’s GDP is still positive,” Lin was quoted by Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for Hun Sen, as saying during a courtesy call to the Council of Ministers office in Phnom Penh.

The World Bank estimates that gross domestic product will rise 4.4 percent this year.

The spokesman said that Lin, who is also senior vice president of the World Bank, congratulated the premiere on the Kingdom’s development.

In response, Hun Sen highlighted that the government was trying to improve the economy through agricultural enhancements, physical and telecommunications infrastructure improvements, and energy and human resource development…

The Cambodia Daily reported one day later:
Economic Concessions Endanger Rights of Poor, World Bank Says

The World Bank on Tuesday warned that large-scale farmland purchases posed a threat to rights of farmers in Cambodia and elsewhere in the world, a conclusion that follows criticism by human rights workers of Cambodia’s economic land concessions to private firms.

Big land acquisitions by investors raise “a real concern about the ability of local institutions to protect vulnerable groups from losing land on which they have legitimate, if not formally recognized claims,” the World Bank said in a new report on growing global demand for farmland.

“The veil of secrecy that often surrounds these land deals must be lifted so poor people don’t ultimately pay the heavy price of losing their land,” World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonji-Iweala said in a statement.

Is one statement true, and the other is not? No. Both are true. The question is, however, who is looking at what, and for whose benefit. In macroeconomic terms, Cambodia is doing well – says the Chief Economist of the World Bank.

This does not lead to poverty alleviation helping a large number of Cambodian people, says the Managing Director of the World Bank.

The difference depends on the viewpoint. And depending on whether the interest is directed to overall finance figures of the country, or on the economic situation of many people in the rural countryside, different realities are seen.

The Managing Director of the World Bank sees a possible solution: “The veil of secrecy that often surrounds these land deals must be lifted so poor people don’t ultimately pay the heavy price of losing their land.” Worth to consider. Worth to do. Worth to observe if this is happening.

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 681 - Thursday, 9.9.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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