CDRI poll: Most happy but disappointments still exist

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A view of Phnom Penh Capital City. A survey has found that seventy per cent of youth and 72 per cent of adults agreed that the country is on the right track. Heng Chivoan

A survey has found that over 70 per cent of Cambodian youths and adults approve of the direction the country is headed in, with the majority of respondents saying they had been doing better financially over the past five years.

However, more than half said they were disappointed with the help provided to the poor and job creation.

The Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) last week released its Cambodia’s Younger and Older Generations: Views on Generational Relations and Key Social and Political Issues survey, which aimed to analyse the opinions of Cambodia’s emerging younger generation and the implications for society, politics and future development.

“Seventy per cent of youth and 72 per cent of adults agreed that the country is on the right track. Satisfaction with the country’s direction was stronger among rural people (74 per cent) than among urban people (64 per cent)."

“In terms of economic wellbeing, the majority of Cambodians (87 per cent) believed they are doing better financially than five years ago. This view was shared enthusiastically among youths and older Cambodians, men and women, and rural and urban residents,” the report said.

Respondents said there had been improvements in their economic standing compared to five years ago.

The survey was carried out in five provinces – Battambang, Kampot, Stung Treng, Svay Rieng and Kampong Cham – and Phnom Penh from October 2017 to January 2018.

The research team conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,600 residents of 101 villages. The report was published last month.

“We asked respondents whether they valued and believed in Cambodian elections. The vast majority of Cambodians (99 per cent) said they considered it their civic duty to vote in elections."

“Almost all (99 per cent) youth and adults agreed with the statement ‘I feel an obligation to vote’. This view was shared across genders and urban-rural populations,” the report said.

It said the majority believed voting was important in shaping the future of the country. But when it came to decision making, the family was identified as the most influential factor shaping Cambodians’ political views, followed by politicians and the media.

The survey found that more than half the respondents (59 per cent) approved of the government’s performance in maintaining political stability.

However, more than 60 per cent said they were not happy with its achievements in helping the poor and creating job opportunities.

When it came to key priority areas, respondents said access to healthcare was extremely important, followed by the economy and jobs, the environment, poverty and landlessness.

Views on the country’s prospects were similar as “rural and urban residents were similarly optimistic about the country’s future”.

The survey laid out several recommendations for emerging issues, such as expanding the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) coverage for informally employed youth and developing specific policy platforms and capacity supports to empower youth on education, vocational training, employment, housing, health, environment, elections and technology.

The recommendations also included working closely with NGOs and youth organisations, and providing more government support for the poor and creating decent employment for youths.

It also recommended that government ministries “capitalise on the growing popularity of online platforms to help them perform their work and engage more effectively with citizens”, and address the gender gap.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the questions asked on the country’s direction sounded vague and the responses given may not have truly reflected people’s actual approval of the government.

He said the US International Republican Institute did a similar survey prior to the 2013 national election and also found a high rate of approval in the direction the country was heading.

“But the results of that election were far from consistent with the results of the survey,” he said.

The responses to questions on the specific issue of the government’s assistance to the poor and jobs for youths, he said, seemed to more accurately reflect reality.

Social analyst Meas Nee said: “If the samples were selected correctly according to a scientific methodology, the responses can reflect reality. But sometimes the people surveyed feel they cannot speak the truth or criticise the government,” he said.

He said the overall situation was “not too bad”. But the negative in politics was the Supreme Court dissolution in November 2017 of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party which was supported by more than three million people.

“Other than this, we see that many other sectors have positively developed. It’s like the Khmer saying – ‘A ship of good deeds can be destroyed with a single mistake’,” Nee said.