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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Quote: Margaret Slocomb on the role of agriculture in the Cambodian economy

In quote on August 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I was planning on writing up a short review and recommendation on Peg LeVine’s book Love and dread in Cambodia: weddings, births, and ritual harm under the Khmer Rouge today.  But then I finally got to a point in my writing where I picked up another book, Margaret Slocomb’s An economic history of Cambodia in the twentieth century, and at the end of it was this wonderful, refreshing quote:

As the following chapters will demonstrate, agriculture, which has always been the main occupation of the people and the mainstay of the state surplus, has consistently failed to fulfill its potential as the designated catalyst for the sort of economic development that Cambodia’s modernisers envisaged. It is equally true, however, that after each catastrophe that befell the nation, it was traditional agriculture that revived the national economy and salvaged the people’s livelihood. (p. 29)

Yes, yes, and again yes:  the role of agriculture as a foundation for economy, culture, politics, and ritual imagination, has never been genuinely appreciated in Cambodian studies (or indeed among Cambodian ideologues).

Quote: on Cambodia’s economy

In quote on August 1, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I just discovered this quote on a notecard from January, when I read the wonderful edited volume published by the Center for Khmer Studies.  This quote is by Jeremy Ironside, from his article, “Development – in whose name? Cambodia’s economic development and its indigenous communities – from self-reliance to uncertainty.”  It sums up a lot of Cambodia’s developing economy’s structural problems in a very few words:

For every $100 of exported garments, $63 is spent on improving materials and $4 on utilities. Value added is thus only 1/3 of the total value, with labour costs estimated at $13 and ‘bureaucracy costs’ at $7, with total gross profits at 13%. Three-quarters of these profits are repatriated [abroad; away from Cambodia]. Therefore, only 25% of the sale prie of the garment is net value added which stays in the Cambodian economy.”

p. 123, n.6.  Ironside is citing data from M. Beresford, S. Ngoun, R. Rathin, S. Sisovanna, N. Ceema. 2004. “The macroeconomics of poverty reduction in Cambodia.” The UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Programme on the Macroeconomics of Poverty Reduction.

SOUNDING on Cambodia for September 20, 2010

In sounding on September 20, 2010 at 10:31 am

I’m sweating the beginning of the new semester, as I am teaching three classes (two large intro classes and a seminar), and trying to finish up three articles, among other things. Still, the enormous labor action that took place over the last week in Cambodia needs to be noted, though at this moment I have little to add in the way of analysis or interpretation. Please discuss in the comments.

Anne Elizabeth Moore’s article, “Garment Strike in Phnom Penh reaches Critical Mass: Will Adidas, Gap, and Puma Pay Workers a Living Wage?“, is one of the best summaries of the situation out there currently. Her other work in and on Cambodia is also excellent.

The labor actions have involved, and frequently ended, in violence with police, as the latter attempt to restrain the former.

Al Jazeera Story about recent Garment Factory Raise and the Inflation that swallowed it whole….

In khmer on August 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

as usual, the award for Best International Reporting on Cambodia in English goes to….Al Jazeera English.

Chea Mony of the much-discussed-on-this-blog Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, shows up around the 1’55 mark, and the closure has some statistics, and a short interview with a sex worker, that really brings the numbers home.

I like the way this story was done, as well, including the part with the sex worker at the end; maybe even especially because of that part.  Normally, I hate the tendency of foreign reporters to focus so easily and quickly on the sex trade in Cambodia as a catch-all symptom of corruption and desperation; not that the sex trade doesn’t usually represent precisely those things, but because the focus on it remains, for the most part, purely at the level of representation.  That’s to say, when most reporters focus on the trade in Cambodia, they rarely make an explicit connection between the factors that drove the sex worker to the trade, why s/he remains there, including the reasoning used, etc.  And they almost never treat the sex worker with respect, but usually focus on the titillating shots that will get the story attention from editors back in New York, London, or Dubai.  This one felt different to me, perhaps especially because the sex-worker interviewed at the end was translated, rather than merely paraphrased, and because the camera-work was not as predatory.

“Terrible Karma” Cambodian Female Garment Worker Song, with translation

In khmer on August 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm

From a story by Uon Chin, Radio Free Asia, accessed on August 9, of a union rally in Phnom Penh, from July 25, of an estimate 5-7 thousand unionists.  A very sad song by female garment workers, titled “Terrible Karma.”  I typed out the song lyrics, and have included a first attempt at a translation (I am a bit intimidated by poetic translation, and found some of the lines difficult; suggestions for correction would be lovely, in the comments), below, after the break….

[update August 27, 2010: conversations with Chanroeun Pa, of  Cambodian Translation Link and Trent Walker of the Ho Center of Buddhist Studies at Stanford University have helped me amend some of the lines; thanks, Chanroeun and Trent!  The good things below are owed to the composers of the song, the bad things that remain are my fault.]

បទ «កម្ម​កំណាច​ឫស្សា» Read the rest of this entry »

SOUNDING on Cambodia, July 2, 2010

In sounding on July 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm

So many things have been going on since I took an extended vacation from blogging, but here are some of the Cambodian stories I’ve been following and wondering about:

Sounding on Cambodia, March 19, 2010

In sounding on March 19, 2010 at 9:18 am

Funded by the US State Department and the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, Undercover UXO is designed to run on the “One Laptop Per Child XO laptop.” The game will provide a consequence-free learning environment that teaches kids how to identify UXOs and report them to inspectors.

  • A lay nun burned herself inside the confines of Watt Ounalom in Phnom Penh.  If you click through, beware that the photo is pretty horrific. The reasons for this tragic action remain unclear, though there is a lot of speculation; the woman, whose current status has not been reported to my knowledge, was taken to Calmette Hospital.
  • Anne Elizabeth Moore has another excellent article on Cambodian Garment Workers. Moore has a relatively privileged perspective here, having lived as a dorm supervisor for a few months in Cambodia for the Harpswell Foundation.  The article, a followup to the last one written by Moore at Truthout, focuses on the Messenger Band, a band composed of current and former garment workers.  There’s audio on the site as well – go check it out! I cried at my computer when I read this part:

Members of the Messenger Band

Members of the Messenger Band

As garment factories close, more and more women enter the sex industry by working at the karaoke bars. You have a song about this.

Vun Em: When the factories close down, some girls will go to become entertainment workers, and HIV will spread out around. But why don’t [the NGOs] care about their living life? Why they don’t care about their family? Why they don’t care about the security of those people? Why they care only about HIV? [She starts to cry.] I don’t know, I don’t understand.

We also care about HIV, but you have to think about the lives of the people, not only HIV. If the people don’t have enough food to eat, if they don’t have enough education, if they don’t have good health, how can they prevent themselves from the HIV? They don’t have time to think about HIV, they only have time to think, I need food, I need food. All the time.

Sounding on Cambodia for March 10, 2010

In sounding on March 10, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Raymond Robertson on Better Factories Cambodia

In notice on March 4, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Macalester Economics department Professor Raymond Robertson speaks on the Macalester Talks podcast series, about his work with the International Labor Organization (ILO) project in Cambodia, called Better Factories Cambodia. Long-time readers (yes, I’m talking to both of you) realize that I have a long-standing interest in Cambodian economy and labor.

Most Recent Podcast Episode

Professor Raymond Robertson, economics, talks about his work with Better Factories Cambodia. Many factories in developing worlds have poor working standards. The program has enlisted many large scale retailers in their efforts.

listensubscribe in iTunesvisit podcast archive

Macalester College.

The Numbers: Whose God Helps Out Most On The Economic Front?

In notice on February 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm

From the awesome Good Magazine.

GOOD.is | The Almighty Dollar (Raw Image).

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