Let’s talk money: New campaign helps Cambodia’s new generation on financial management

Let’s talk money: New campaign helps Cambodia’s new generation on financial management

The World Bank partnered with the Women’s Media Center “Let’s Talk Money” radio show to help build financial stability in Cambodia.

Risky financial behaviors among Cambodians of the post-millennial generation have become more widespread in the country, especially among the 18-35 age group. While they are important customers for the financial and banking sectors, their behaviors are often dominated by lavish spending and excessive borrowing. 
However, this generation is also “techno-savvy” with extensive exposure to social media like Facebook and YouTube, radio, television, the internet, and smart phones. These channels are readily available in urban areas and increasingly accessible in Cambodian provinces. 
With this in mind, we thought “outside the box” about ways to help address this issue, and to reach a younger population. Utilizing social media, our Finance and Markets team at the World Bank launched an innovative “Let’s Talk Money” campaign, as part of our overall effort to build financial stability in Cambodia.
In partnership with the National Bank of Cambodia and supported by the Korean Trust Fund, we aimed to address consumer financial issues and influence financial behaviors of Cambodians through the “Let’s Talk Money” radio show. The program broadcasted nationwide three times a week from December 2016 to February 2017 on Women’s Media Center FM102 and their Facebook page.
The radio show attracted over one million listeners nationally. On Facebook, it got an average of 4,000 views per show. Nana, the DJ of the program, is a prominent Khmer radio personality with over 500,000 Facebook followers and advocates for women to take control of their household finances and to make sensible financial choices.
The show’s messages resonated far and wide among Cambodians. It raised sensitive questions about household finances and money management and provided practical answers to difficult money-related questions facing any Cambodian family. 
Following the show’s take-off, we stepped further outside the box by marrying the idea of talking about money to singing about money. We invited Cambodia’s most popular young performer, Oun, to sing about “Luy”, which means money in Khmer.

Popular singer, Oun from Cambodia, helped raise awareness about ways to manage money better through his song.

The song highlights the singers own experience, the mistakes he made, and the lessons he learned. Keeping the messages light and funny, he sang about managing money, spending no more than what you make, avoiding unnecessary borrowing, and saving money. 
Posted in May 2017 on Facebook and YouTube, the video became an overnight sensation throughout the country. By June 2017, the video reached over one million viewers, a high figure compared to other popular songs in Cambodia. 
Over 30,000 people have shared the music video on Facebook. The comments were positive with people saying: this is a meaningful song, need to be more careful with money, have to avoid overspending and debt, stop being crazy about money, think twice before spending, save money, and more.
Through our experience of engaging a radio program and pop artist in Cambodia, we found that music, though unconventional, has a lot of potential to reach the new generation. The results so far have confirmed that radio and engaging videos on social media can influence people’s financial behaviors and strengthen Cambodia’s financial capacity. 
Together with traditional activities, such as policy measures to manage risks and financial sector stability, going directly to the financial consumers with a message on prudent financial management can also serve to further achieve our financial objectives. The effect of this method for outreach will need to be carefully monitored and we hope to learn more about its impact.

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Regulating agribusinesses: What are the trends in developing East Asia?

Regulating agribusinesses: What are the trends in developing East Asia?

The pace of economic development throughout developing East Asia has been unprecedented. Despite the effect of the 1997-98 financial crisis, poverty rates in the region have been consistently declining.
Agriculture played a key role by driving growth in the early stages of industrialization. It also contributed to reducing rural poverty by including smallholders into modern food markets and creating jobs in agriculture. Nonetheless, poverty in developing East Asia is still overwhelmingly rural, reflecting a mismatch between agriculture’s shares of GDP and employment.

Agriculture’s weight in growth and poverty.
Source: Authors’ calculations based on WDI data.

As incomes rise and countries urbanize, the composition of domestic food expenditure is shifting from staples to meat, horticulture and processed foods. Thus, while today’s East Asian developing economies transform, the nature of their agricultural sectors is also changing.

Regulation can affect the speed of such transformation and determine the pathways of agricultural development in the years to come. It is a key business environment component due to its impact on costs, risks and barriers to competition in the agricultural value chain. Agricultural production has unique dimensions through which it interacts with relevant laws and regulations. These include agricultural inputs such as seed and fertilizer, and access to finance and markets. By setting the right regulatory framework, governments can help increase the competitiveness of farmers and agribusinesses, enabling them to integrate into regional and global markets.

Measuring regulations

The World Bank Group’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project measures regulatory good practices and transaction costs affecting agribusinesses. EBA indicators cover a range of regulatory domains pertaining to seed, fertilizer, agricultural machinery, water, access to markets, finance, transport, information and communication technology (ICT). For each of these areas EBA indicators provide an aggregate picture of how supportive regulation is for agribusinesses. A newly released policy note analyzes seven East Asia and Pacific countries including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

EBA indicators assess regulation on two complementary dimensions. On the one hand, legal indicators reflect the number of regulatory good practices that countries enact to correct market failures. This may include, for example, plant protection regulations or labelling requirements for fertilizers. On the other hand, efficiency indicators measure the transaction costs regulations impose on businesses such as time and cost to register a tractor or obtain a trucking license.

Most regulatory constraints to agricultural development in East Asian economies pertain to the legal dimension, where the region scores second to last.

Figure 1. EBA Scores by Region
Source: EBA data
Note: OECD- High income OECD countries, LAC – Latin America & Caribbean, ECA- Europe & Central Asia,
MENA-Middle East & North Africa, EAP –
East Asia & Pacific, SSA-Sub-Saharan Africa, SA- South Asia.

Country-level scores highlight the diversity of agricultural regulation in East Asia, with Vietnam displaying the most supportive framework. This is reflected in Vietnam’s good regulatory practices such as allowing water permit transfers among farmers and abolishing quotas on cross-border transport licenses. Moreover, it is supported by efficient systems. For example, it requires only 15 days to register a chemical fertilizer product in Vietnam, which is the second best performance across the 62 countries covered by EBA—chemical fertilizer registration is fastest in Uruguay. In contrast, Myanmar displays the least supportive regulatory framework, with particularly weak laws on plant protection and pest control and a lack of rules on tractor standards and water permits.

Figure 2. EBA Scores by Country

Source: EBA data
Benchmarking regulatory frameworks in East Asian economies through the EBA indicators suggests few general trends. First, these countries tend to perform better on efficiency than on legal components. Second, most countries over perform the global average on fertilizer regulations but fail to do so when it comes to regulating other agricultural inputs such as water. Third, access to markets and finance regulations are two areas where regulation in the region need substantial improvement.

Rising incomes and urbanization in East Asia are shifting the composition of domestic food expenditure from basic and unprocessed staple foods to meat, horticulture and processed foods. To take full advantage of these emerging trade opportunities policy makers should seize the opportunity to support agribusinesses with effective regulations.


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Cows and Television: Rolling out a New System for Financial Management Information in Cambodia

Cows and Television: Rolling out a New System for Financial Management Information in Cambodia

On a recent visit to provincial treasury offices to learn about the Financial Management Information Systems, or FMIS, that our Governance teams helped introduce, the conversation became about cows.

The learning curve for an institution accustomed to managing public finances the manual way – that is, with papers and pens – to switch to an automated state-of-the-art system was, some treasury staff said, comparable to bringing a cow to watch television. Cows, they explained, are as unfamiliar with television as some treasury staff are with computers, the internet, and FMIS.

Fortunately, the relevance of the analogy was short-lived. It was soon clear that treasury staff can overcome the learning curve and that the new system has been helpful. I consistently heard praise about the system’s usefulness, because it provides useful financial information, reduces the amount of repetitive work, and generates timely reports. That is a big change.

“I’m so proud to have this system,” said Sivon Khemarun, the director of Battambang’s provincial treasury. “We want to use a system that is up to the standards of those used by developed countries.”

 “We tried our best to make sure we make full use of the system, despite these difficulties,” said Touch Kunthea, the head of the Oddar Meanchey provincial treasury. “It is important for us, and for all people.”

There were other obstacles besides the learning process. The FMIS was installed at provincial treasuries in early 2016, yet it was not in full use until January this year. Some treasury offices chose to run the new system in parallel with the older, paper-based method until the end of last year – even though it led to twice as much work and delays in the processing of payment orders.

Today, the FMIS is working in all 25 capital and provincial treasury units, thanks to the Public Financial Management Modernization Project, an initiative co-financed by a trust fund from the European Union, Sweden, and Australia, and administered by the World Bank. The objective of the project is to improve the management of public finance by strengthening revenue mobilization and the processes of budget execution. The system is capable of generating a wealth of information on the management and deployment of the government’s financial resources across an array of programs and projects.

That is not to say everything is working perfectly. Certain issues still need to be addressed.  Additional training to refresh newly acquired skills would be helpful, as would additional equipment such as computers and printers. Better collaboration with commercial banks and clients would also help.

The second phase of the FMIS, which will be financed through budget support from the European Union, will help the Ministry of Economy and Finance to address these issues and to roll out the program to other government agencies. The analogy of cows and televisions may return, but not for long – a new era in the management of public finance in Cambodia has begun.

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