Former Students of CIT in Royal Government

I am so glad today to be able to join with all of Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen to witness the graduation and diploma presenting ceremony for 2,186 graduates of the Cambodian Institute of Technology (CIT). I find it a satisfactory result that today we are adding more into our needed human resource for national development. We have on the one hand the need to develop the country but also on the other to fill in the need for human resource to develop the country.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to CIT for the progress it has made so far after the liberation of our country from the genocidal regime of Pol pot. HE Pit Chamnan, Secretary of State for Education, Youth and Sports, also reported to us the development in the field of education that CIT in particular and Cambodian education sector in general has ascertained. It also includes the reform in the tertiary education. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the efforts made by the whole CIT and particularly the leadership of Dr. Oum Roumni and other professors as well as friends who have delivered assistance to CIT.

In my childhood, not far from here is the pagoda of Nagavoan, where I stayed, there were nothing around here except grass and bushes. Until 1980s, when we put CIT back into service, the situation around was no different. Tragedy under Pol Pot closed the Institute. When Pol Pot fell, CIT was back on its feet and provide training for those who had taken their studies but never finished it then. I could recall that some of the students survived the Pol Pot’s regime, and who worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had requested permission to finish their study in the institute. We also have some former students of CIT who is now in the Royal Government too – HE Serey Kosal, HE Lim Keanhor, HE Ek Sun Chan, etc.

I am grateful to all 66 foreign tertiary establishments with whom, according to the report of HE Pit Chamnan, the institute has maintained contacts. They also have their representatives here. I am of the opinion that such cooperation framework continues. Having said that, now HE Phuong Sakona is in Senegal for a summit of the Francophone countries. In fact Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, HE Hang Chuon Naron, was to be the one to attend but it falls on a schedule when he had to translate Russian when I met with Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. We surprised the Russian Prime Ministers as we have prepared two translators – HE Hang Chuon Naron and Ms Soeung Rathchavi.

I told the Russian Prime Minister that among those trained in Russia, some have become Ministers and State Secretaries – three of them are Ministers of Education, Finance and Economy; and Culture. This does not mean we do not give chance to others but they have to be presentable with their capacity. There could be my visit to Russia next year.

CIT Moves Forwards in Difficulties

We had once again bumped into new difficulties in 1991/92. We made effort to put the Institute back into service with the assistance of the former Soviet Union, when students had had to study in both Khmer and Russian. At the withdrawal of assistance because of the change in the former Soviet Union, as Prime Minister with support of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia, in the political settlement framework, I made effort to contact with the Government of France, then Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, to work out some kind of deal to help the institute when the Soviet Union withdrew its assistance. It was a difficult moment. We had one buttress removed and it was hard to find a replacement.

After that there was a big issue. Many of the students here may have remembered that there was a big discussion between learning in French or English. There was then a demonstration and instigation from some elites too. Some who had gone and studied in France would like the Institute to have a French language curriculum with help expected to be rendered from France and Francophone countries. Those elites who have gone and studied in Australia, US, England wanted CIT to go English way. I knew full well who were behind all this. I then proposed a solution. In replacement of Russian professors, we would introduce a Khmer, French and English curricula altogether.

The other day I met with Prime Minister of the Federation of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, and I reminded him of our relations. The Institute was in fact built by the former Soviet Union, in which Russia was a biggest country, in 1960 and put into service in 1964. It has now come to its 50th anniversary and despites all sorts of difficulty CIT has continued to make its advancement. As everyone may have learnt that the Cambodian situation is uniquely different from those of other countries in the world like Rwanda, Serra Leone, former Yugoslavia, etc.

No country in the world had evacuated their population from the cities like Cambodia. After the liberation (on January 7) the country was in a completely devastated condition. Now the situation has come to a different phase of hardship. At the intersection that we named after the institute, Techno, there has always been traffic congestion. There is going to be an overpass in the intersection area. This is a difference.

Engineers Find Jobs, Quality of Construction

I would also relay my appreciation to the objective of reform of tertiary education system. I will soon meet with Association of Tertiary Education of Cambodia to listen to their concerns as well as their recommendations on reform of the tertiary education. I also take this chance to express to all graduates of all levels – Masters, Engineers and Bachelor of Engineering of CIT – my greetings.  According to HE Pit Chamnan, 100% of graduates as engineers find their jobs. There are so many constructions going on these days. I wish to urge attention carefully paid on quality of the construction. Public sector – the army included, and the private sector all need engineers.

I am grateful to the decision made by CIT management in allowing 94 students to participate in the land measuring campaign/operation in the framework of new action in existing policy. I met some of them in Banteay Meanjei, Kompot, Pursat and Kompong Thom. They have made constructive contributions to ensuring land titling and safety in owning land for the people. As for the students coming from Laos, I wish to inform them that I have worked with the Laotian Ambassador and also Prime Minister when I was in Laos to propose change in scholarship for students.

It was proposed and agreed at 120 USD from 100 USD in the year 2000, if I am not mistaken. I have also proposed to Prime Minister of Laos to provide a scholarship of 150 USD /month for the Cambodian students studying in Laos, and I will provide equal amount for Laotian students studying in Cambodia. The Laotian Prime Minister responded that he would leave the matter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Education to discuss the issues. In fact, both Cambodian students in Laos and Laotian students in Cambodia are calling for it. Our Laotian friends say to us they have more foreign students to take care off. We have no less. We are taking equal measure only with Laos and not with other countries like Japan because the living condition is different.

Twelve Disequilibriums

We will go on with developing more human resources. I have mentioned earlier about imbalance between the need for development versus the lack of human resources. I should in fact make a brief explanation about disequilibriums that we have been striving to address. In 1980s, in my book “Ten Years of Cambodia’s March” I noticed only four major disequilibriums – (1) between demand and supply, (2) between national income and expense, (3) exports and imports and (4) monetary and goods. We then had discovered and upgraded to six, to ten and now to twelve disequlibriums. They made a knot from many strings. This has not yet included imbalances in other sectors relating to need for ASEAN and world integration and lack of connectivity, which is for Cambodia solely and for the region as a whole. What I wanted to share here is the local disequilibriums.

First, I would go on saying there is a disequilibrium between demand and supply. This will not end easily. It will continue to be a question. Some countries suffer demand and supply disequilibrium in issue of food. Cambodia before also had this problem. We have now reduced it to a great deal. In 1980s, especially after the liberation in 1979, we would eat anything we could find. As of now, our people would have to eat what they could account to be safe. We have sufficient rice but we are still lacking a certain items such as fish, meat, vegetables, etc. Issue of shelters, clothing, etc. has improved a lot but we still have people who do not have homes.

In relation to education, though compared to the beginning of our departure, the current state is far better than those days, though we have now at least one University for every province, dozens of senior colleges, etc. we still have issue of lacking teachers or classrooms. In health, we lack the equilibrium between demand and supply services provided in this sector. Though the street is full and congested, we still have demand for more means of transport. Why do we say so? We are passing the bill of land traffic today at the National Assembly but how do we go about addressing issue of people transporting human and goods on roof of their transport means. It is because they do not have a good means of transportation.

In relation to cultivation and production, there is still a lack of means and tools for production. We have shared land among our people in 1980s, when there were only seven or eight million populations. We now have 15 million people already. When we first distributed land to the people, some families had only husband and wife with two kids. Now they have their grand children already. Demand is on the rise. Our rainy season rice is cultivated on over to 2.5 million hectares and half a million dry season rice. We cultivate rice on roughly 3 million hectares. That does not include other crops. We still have to give out social concession land to our people with a five years occupation before issuing them titles. Efforts must be made further to resolve the need for infrastructure in rural areas.

Second, there is this disequilibrium between national income and expense. It is true that there are not many countries in the world that have surplus in their budget. For us, considering the income and current expense, we have surplus which is being used to improve the salary for officials on one side and to invest in infrastructure on the other. I would inform too that the budget next year, adopted last week, has stretched beyond our goal on expense for staff. In principle, only 40% of the current expense is allowed to spend on staff. Now, we have stretched it to 49% already of current expense. Compared to GDP, we will have spent 6% while it is recommended to only spend 4%. This has to be done to improve the living condition of the civil servants, the armed forces, retirees also included.

It is true that the national budget that we can trust through our efforts of public finance reform has improved our income indeed. However, if we were to compare the national expense and income together, we would see that our expense is more than our income. It is so because we also include our expense on infrastructural investment. Every country does not have only teachers’ salary or medical staffs’ to provide for but also school buildings and hospitals, medicines and equipments. That is why it is required that we must put budget on improvement of living condition of staff but also on means to fulfill the jobs.

Thirdly, it is still the same issue of export and import imbalance. It is true that our export was at 100 millions only. Now that our export has stood at between 6 and 7 billion USD, still we have a figure of 8 or 9 billion USD of import. Our trade is still imbalanced. There has been a request in the National Assembly for the Royal Government to achieve the so called balance of trade. We are working on a balance a whole but we cannot do it on any particular country. We may have exported over 1 or 2 billion USD to the US. If we have had to import a sum of 2 billion USD from the US, we could afford that.

In Europe, our export to England is bigger than other countries. If England demands that we import from them on equal measure, we would not be able to do it. In Asia, we export the most to Japan. I could recall when I met with the late President Roh Moo-Hyun of the Republic of Korea. I asked him to help improve trade imbalance between our two countries as importation from Cambodia to ROK was smaller than the amount ROK exported to Cambodia. HE Roh Moo-Hyun then said many Korean tourists came to Cambodia could help address the trade imbalance already.

I think that is reasonable. Every year we welcome over 300,000 Korean tourists and now we are noticing the growing number of tourists from China. I mention this to either the former President of China, HE Hu Jintao or the current President of China, HE Xi Jinping – Cambodia would want tourists from China at only 0.1% of its population or 1,3 million tourists from China. As of present, in the past months, we have over 400,000 tourists from China and hope that the Chinese tourists to Cambodia could reach half a million. The Chinese have money. The Japanese tourists do too.

Fourth, it is the issue of managing imbalance between monetary and goods. It requires a firm macroeconomic management, prevention of inflation and nurturing purchasing power of the Riel currency. What good do we increase the staff salary for when inflation increases and the increased amount is powerless.

Fifth, the address of infrastructural need is insufficient. Our infrastructure has not yet responded positively to the need for development. We need better, bigger roads, rail, bridge, ports and airfields. We also need better irrigation system. Our effort to develop human resource aims to address this imbalance.

Sixth, there is this disequilibrium between need for development and lack of human resource. We still have lack of human resource not only post graduate levels but also technical trainees, which also includes skilled farmers. We are now in the epoch of knowledge and know-how economy. We could not fulfill our development goal without good and sufficient human resource at all. We are not in traditional economy mode any more where everything is going for subsistence. The angle of the rectangular strategy has now directed from roads, irrigation and electricity to human resource development.

Seventh, the lack of balance between need for living condition and low salary is the point here. It is not that the Royal Government does not see this imbalance but the question here is that there is not money. I just told you that in principle we could spend only 40% of our current expense on staff. Now we have stretched it to 49%. In one of the G20 Summits in Los Cabos, Mexico, representing ASEAN, I was seated next to the Prime Minister of Spain. He told me he had no choice but to reduce number of staff and increase tax. As for Cambodia, seeing the need to address the imbalance between living condition of the employees and armed forces versus low salary, the Royal Government has to step on to a program to spend more than 40% of the current expense to 49%.

Eighth, it is the disequilibrium between human labor and jobs, including also issue of lack of land for cultivation. Every year now we have more and more grownup people who need jobs. It has prompted us to attract investment on one hand and to diversify agriculture through the expansion of feeding capacity from existing cultivating land. In addition, we also provide more land for farmers. We have more people. In Cambodia, Cambodia’s birthrates have brought our population to 15 million while Laos is still at 6 million. As for birth spacing practice, it seems working only in urban but not in rural areas. Attracting investments is an important part that will provide job which will help resolve the issue of growing population. Land provision is one major way to address the issue.

Ninth, there is this imbalance between jobs and lack of labor in some areas. Some parts of the country have got jobs but there have not been sufficient labor availability. When more migrated to the city or economic zones for jobs, their rice fields back at home were left unattended and/or uncultivated. There has been shortage of laborers in Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stoeng Treng where there is a need for labor to work in rubber plantation. Last year I was in the district of Khsach Kandal’s Vihearsuor, working in rice field, people got paid 16,000 Riel plus two meals. This has presented a contradiction as many laborers have been attracted by higher pay in Thailand.

Tenth, it is the disequilibrium between existing raw material and means for processing to create added value. This has presented a problem so far. We have a surplus of rice about 5 million tons per year. We processed about 2 million tons and the rest flowed out of the country. This translates that we are losing added value from rice bran, husk, broken parts, jobs, etc. I am calling this a situation where we have gold but no paper to wrap. We have million tons of unprocessed cassava. We have rubber but no mean to process it. This has called for investment from outside as well as inside the country.

Eleventh, we also have this imbalance between production and lack of market. I listened to the demand of our people about the fact that they have now come to harvest rice, maize, tobacco, etc. and you are facing problem of no traders. If we were to purchase them, we could not sell them because of the differing standard. Minister of Trade conducted his visit to Kuwait in his search for possibility to open markets in the Middle East. We are implementing this outward looking policy. Literally, we are not thinking of only importing. We now have to continue seeking a point of where on one side importing but at the same time exporting too.

Some major countries talked about lifting up protectionism. Frankly speaking, countries in Asia-Europe summit dared not lift up their barricade. If they were to do so they would place conditions about phytosanitation certificate and so on so that no one could export to their markets. Poor countries will have a hard time exporting to developed countries, while developed countries have it easy to do so. The world is not just between the rich and the poor. Some countries continue to subsidize their agriculture and prevent agricultural products from entering their market or their farmers will protest against them. However, we must seek to improve the quality of our products.

Twelve, a disequilibrium also exists between requirement for more and speedy services with lack of legal system as well as lack of speedy, effective and efficient response by relevant institutions. This has called for reform relating to governance and legal system. People need more qualitative services but relevant institutions are slow, ineffective and lest efficient to react. Sometimes, a problem that needs a one-day work has been extended to three days. I am referring to legal operation framework that requires national and sub-national administrations, who provide services to the people, to act swiftly and efficiently. As far as issues relating to the court, I would not dare to touch on it. However, we are also part of the law drafting process for the courts to implement.

Roughly, there may be more but I think of the twelve disequilibriums that require prioritized attention. Today I am talking about our need in relation to national development and human resource development./.