It has already been a month since I moved to Cambodia. Life is changing, at least for a couple of years.
It has been a long time since I last posted something, but I’ll try to be more frequent from now on.
I was given the opportunity to ‘hop on’ a mission as advisor to the Cambodian tax administration in the cooperation that they and the Swedish Tax Agency have, financed by the European Community and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The purpose of the cooperation is to assist the government in Cambodia in their efforts to reforms according to the Revenue Mobilization Strategy.
In the cooperation we normally work with short term experts from Sweden coming to Cambodia for short periods (1-2 weeks) and work on different areas. My role is to be the long term advisor, based in Phnom Penh to facilitate the cooperation and close within the administration to help implementing reforms/changes. It is a change from the last years where I have been coming in and out regularly as a short term expert.
I am well installed in Phnom Penh, and the work is going well even if it is a bit slow. It is slow since everybody here is very busy with today’s challenges while the capacity for change is low to medium. However, I find that they want to improve and that we actually can contribute in a good way – so that’s good.
The day-to-day life is good here. The climate is nice and warm. For now, in the dry season, temperatures stay around 20-32 degrees Celsius. But soon, from April, the rainy season will start and we will see temperatures rising to approx 35 and a sky rocketing humidity.
People here are nice and although their english isn’t very good, it is easy to get around and to make oneself understood. It is easy to find groceries, both ‘western’ and local. and it is easy to get around in this fairly big city.
Traffic is interesting. It is both completely chaotic and smooth at the same time. Too many vehicles and not so many following traffic regulation makes everybody queuing and travel very time consuming. But, there is somehow a flow to it, and people are treating each other nicely out there. And slowly, they also adopt regulations. In the three years I have been visiting, there has been a major change in using helmets among moped and motorbike riders. First time I was here in 2015, almost nobody wore helmets. Today, almost all drivers do. That is to say drivers, only drivers are obligated by law to wear helmet, not the passengers. So, the very common scene here is – one driver with helmet, and three passengers (yes, three – one more adult and two small children!) without helmets. In cars, almost all front seated persons wear seatbelt whereas backseat passengers don’t. Well, that is what the regulation says.
When I describe life here as easy, it is as a westener or if you are a fairly wealthy Cambodian. If you have the money you can live very well here. Of course not everybody is that fortunate. The ‘normal scenery’ here still comprises people sleeping in the streets at night, families with small children not having food for the day and extreme poverty. Mixed all together, you see a huge amount of luxury cars and very old and cranky moped and bicycles.
But the government is working hard on actions and reforms to have the country rise from a ‘developing country’, to become a middle-income country. GDP is rising, and pretty fast and reforms are in motion. Investments (also from other countries) are everywhere, construction is everywere and massive. I would predict that in a few years the country will actually become what they aim for. I will not discuss politics here, a lot of things can be said about it, but you can actually see and feel the change that is happening – much of it also in good ways.
I will continue to post reflections on life here and about what I find and explore in this delightful country.