Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cambodia - Phnom Penh Rated One of the World’s Least Livable Cities

Downtown Phnom Penh is seen from across the Tonle Bassac river on Sunday. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)

Widespread corruption, poor health care and a lack of adequate infrastructure continue to make Phnom Penh one of the least livable major cities in the world, according to the annual Global Livability Ranking, released on Thursday by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Phnom Penh placed 127th out of 140 capital cities and commercial hubs, which were ranked based on the availability and quality of public and private health care, education, infrastructure, culture, environment and stability.

Miguel Chanco, the unit’s lead analyst for Asean, said Phnom Penh’s position on the index had remained static—it was ranked 126th last year—due to little improvement across the board, with corruption continuing to be a major drawback.

“Apart from healthcare, one of Phnom Penh’s larger weak points is in the culture and environment component of our study,” Mr. Chanco said by email. “Within this category, the city fares quite poorly when it comes to the level of corruption, which is one of the bigger drags on its score.”

He said the unit rates stability—the level of threat of military conflict and social unrest—as Phnom Penh’s strongest point, “which really does not say much given how weak it is in the other components.”

“I do not think this will remain the case for long, given the increasing risk of social unrest in the lead-up to the 2017-18 elections,” Mr. Chanco added. Commune elections are next year and national elections the year after.

“We certainly cannot rule out a return to the sort of mass protests that affected the city following the 2013 election, especially when considering the current volatile interplay between the two main political parties.”

Mr. Chanco said the capital’s infrastructure, including the quality of public transport and energy supplies, also remained poor.

Mean Chanyada, a spokesman for City Hall, dismissed the report and said the government was working hard to improve services in the capital’s poorest communities.

“I’m not sure what criteria they used to give those scores,” he said. “But as a capital city we have been trying our best to serve our people, provide public buses, improve infrastructure. If they still don’t see the improvement of the living standards of the people, we can’t do anything about it.”

Phnom Penh’s skyline has changed dramatically in recent years as housing and commercial development booms, but Sia Phearum, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said a lack of affordable housing was pushing the poorest residents to the city’s outskirts, where they struggle to access health care and find work.

“When the government wants to develop in the urban poor communities, they always evict them and give them very small compensation,” he said.

“They cannot afford adequate housing so it means the poor have no right to live in the city; it is just the rich who have the right to live in the city.”

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