Cambodian Leader: Floods Will Hurt Economy

Prime Minister Hun Sen today warned that economic growth in poverty-stricken Cambodia would likely slow down because the worst flooding in 70 years has devastated rice paddies and other farmland.

More than 140 people have died in Vietnam and Cambodia in two months of flooding, while 1 million people have lost their homes, belongings, land or livestock.

Speaking in the southeastern province of Prey Veng, Hun Sen said huge areas of rice paddies and fields used for other crops have been submerged.

“What I have to worry about now … is economics,” Hun Sen said, according to a national radio broadcast.

“We had hoped for 5.5 percent economic development this year and some of that growth was to come from agriculture. But the floods have sunk agriculture. So the question is, can we reach 5.5 percent or not?”

The government today said 116 people had died in the floods in Cambodia. In neighboring Vietnam, at least 30 people have died, including 23 children.

Economy Depends on Farming

Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest nations and its economy largely depends on farming, with virtually all farmers growing rice. International aid organizations have had some success in getting farmers to diversify.

The government is also struggling to industrialize the nation but has faced many hurdles in the wake of the 1997 Asian economic crisis.

Monika Midel, Cambodia’s director of the World Food Program, said damage to crops will be extensive, though it’s difficult to estimate the losses while so much of the southeastern part of the country is under water.

“One of the main problems after the water recedes will be [recovering from] crops destroyed and infrastructure destroyed or damaged,” said Midel.

Last week, the Red Cross appealed for $1.9 million in aid, with the bulk going to Cambodia. On Monday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an additional appeal for up to $1.5 million for Vietnam.