Rising Costs Impact Daily Life

Rising inflation and increasing fuel and food costs are impacting the everyday lives of Cambodians, who are struggling to pay mounting bills
Factory workers buy food in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Factory workers buy food in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

By Sim Chansamnang, Kim Chillin and Sak Sihoeun

Living in a square rented room, 23-year-old senior student, Nhet Bunrung, who is majoring in civil engineering at Norton University, is currently unemployed and due to rising inflation, his spending has increased, forcing him to receive financial support from his family.

“The inflation keeps rising, goods are more expensive, I must spend more money and I receive support from my family as I don’t have a job yet," he said.

Previously, Bunrung spent between 25,000 riel and 30,000 riel to travel to his hometown, but now the cost has doubled.

“In fact, when we travel from Phnom Penh to our homeland, a bus can cost from 25,000 riel to 30,000 riel then we arrive in Battambang. Now it has doubled, up to 40,000 riel to 45,000 riel, and if it is during a festival month, the price is too expensive,” he added.

The government has forecast that in 2022 the inflation rate is expected to increase by around 5 percent due to the increasing cost of international oil and goods caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine, according to a draft law on the 2023 national budget.

Poeung Seaklily, a 19-year-old freshman student majoring in law, was shopping at Boeung Keng Kang Market. She said she faces hardship due to the increasing price of fuel and goods.

“When the price of fuel goes up, I must spend it. Also, I reduced eating to save money for fuel. I never expected this high price. Food and drinks are also expensive, so I don't know what to do. If all the goods prices go up, I will have lots of shortages,” she said.

Due to the cost of spending, she was forced to reduce her daily meals, which she says had a negative impact on her health.

“My health is becoming so weak. I haven’t had a job yet and all my support is from my parents. My family isn’t that rich because I have two younger siblings who need to spend lots of money on school. I would say that fuel is now a little cheaper, and I hope the goods prices will decrease since our people are in short supply now,” she added.

A 19-year-old man from Kratie province who is pursuing his education at the Royal University of Phnom Penh said he is currently using a small amount of money to pay for his meals because food and goods have doubled in price.

“The first thing is that I lack money for spending on food because I eat at least 7,000 riel per day. No matter small or big, goods are twice as expensive than in the countryside, especially food.”

“For my meals, sometimes I eat one egg. I spent 3,000 riel on buying outside foods and sometimes I forced myself to eat twice. It seems like my health isn’t strong and less nutritional,” he said.

Ky Sereyvath, an economic researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the inflation problem in Cambodia is dependent on two factors. The crisis over fuel prices due to the war in Ukraine and the appreciation of the US dollar.

“The cause of inflation, we see, is due to the oil crisis in Ukraine, which pushed up oil prices and the price of goods because the delivery of goods use both fuel and energy, this is the first factor,” he said.

“The second factor is that in Cambodia, the government has allowed us to purchase fuel from China, so our fuel prices are not increasing now, but what is increasing is the appreciation of the US dollar. As the US has set an interest rate policy, at this point the Riel depreciation, which means money goes down, the price of fuel up to 4,400 riel,” he said.

Meas Soksensan, spokesperson of the Ministry of Economic, could not be reached for comment.

Penn Sovicheat, spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce, said that inflation was currently below 5 percent and that is not a cause for concern. He said the Ministry of Commerce has been monitoring the increasing goods prices as well as the fuel price list every 10 days.

“We monitor goods prices daily and the level of inflation that we see is in a range of less than 5 percent, what makes us worry about the inflation is only above 5 percent. Mostly it is a daily supplement for eating, such as rice, fish, and meat. Some markets could be expensive and some markets are moderate,” he said.

“But the Ministry of Commerce’s monitoring of goods, if the prices increase of daily supplement, the Ministry will have a mechanism to prevent, such as the case of fuel, if there are any changes, we intervene accordingly. The Ministry issued a list of fuel retail sales every 10 days to citizens and this is a part of the Ministry of Commerce working on,” he said.

He added that the government has been involved in solving the inflation issue, especially with vulnerable families.

Back to Bunrung, he suggests the government pays attention to the reserve, which he thinks could solve some problems.

“As a youth, I suggest the government pay attention to reserves, because if we have more energy reserves, we can solve some problems, sometimes reducing the tax without much impact on the economy,” he said.

[The reporters for this story are trainees at Newsroom Cambodia, a hands-on training program to learn and practice journalism]