Coronavirus pushing Cambodia back into poverty

Garment worker Ny Thea never expected she would be in such big trouble. Just recently she still earned about $300 (€253) per month in a clothing factory, and on top of that, she took in extra cash renting out a luxury car. 

But the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. The factory fired Thea and 619 of her colleagues, and no one is interested in renting her vehicle anymore. “I can’t find a new job. I have no idea how I am going to pay off my debts,” she said.

Although the number of coronavirus infections in Cambodia continues to be relatively low, the Southeast Asian country is taking a heavy hit from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

While the nation’s economy grew by 7% in 2019, it’s projected to shrink by as much as 5.5% this year. 

Cambodia’s fight against poverty

The World Bank as well as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warn that poverty may significantly increase. According to the ADB, the current crisis could push an additional 1.3 million Cambodians into poverty. That’s about 8% of the population.

This is likely to put an end — at least temporarily — to Cambodia’s successful fight against poverty over the past two decades.

In 2007, 47.8% of the country’s population lived under the national poverty line. In 2014, this number decreased to 13.5%. But the coronavirus crisis is now expected to push the figure back up to about 20%. The national poverty line defines the poor as people who earn $0.93 or less per day.

On top of that are millions of Cambodians who live just above the poverty line. They are also heading toward harsh times.

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