Tuesday, October 30, 2012

growing pains

Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. After years of devastating war, it would seem that the country is finally on a better track toward the future. But, there are growing pains. What do economic growing pains look like in a developing country? Well, I am not, and would never claim to be, an economist, but from my perspective in Phnom Penh it looks like...

new coffee shops popping up on street corners,
and street corners littered with garbage such as to-go coffee cups

designer clothes shops with cropping up along main boulevards,
and garment workers are paid a monthly wages less than the cost of one dress in said shop

giant office and apartment buildings being built throughout the city,
and people who are forced from their homes and land in the name of development

wealthy businessmen driving Lexuses,
and families of 6 squeezing onto a motorbike

road construction to improve drainage,
and streets that flood worse than before the improvements

markets full of fresh produce and meat,
and children with bloated bellies begging at the exits

organizations offering job-training programs,
and streets with rows upon rows of tailor shops, beauty parlors, and moto mechanics

young adults itching to practice their limited English skills,
and a majority of people who are not literate enough in their own language to read a newspaper

iPhones are everywhere (including in the hands of the 2 young Cambodians currently sitting across from me at one of those new coffee shops),
and electricity is a luxury that sometimes gets switched off with no explanation

Growing pains can be rough, and I find myself wondering if there is a way to avoid them. I am not sure. I mean, the growth is exciting because of the new opportunities it brings. But, sometimes it is just painful and ugly. Sometimes it is hard to see how this growth could possibly be good. Sometimes it is hard to see how this growth could possibly be bad. I suppose it is all about perspective.

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