The poverty level has continued to decline nationwide in Cambodia. But at the local levels, progress toward achieving each of the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs) varies significantly. For example, one province may score “green” under one goal but remains in the “red” under another.
Cambodia now hopes to replace the “red” with more “green” spots on its poverty map by introducing a new measurement system called CMDG scorecards. They were designed to assist policy makers and development planners in identifying areas where they will need to do more to achieve MDGs.
The Ministry of Planning unveiled the new measurement at a workshop on 6 December. The event was attended by some 120 participants including government officials and representatives of development partners, international organizations and non-governmental organizations.
“If we just look at the MDG document, we can only know what needs to be done, but we cannot measure our results. So the scorecards let us know that,” H.E. Hou Taing Eng, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Planning, said at the workshop.
With support from UNDP, the Ministry developed the scorecards by drawing on data from the existing Commune Database (CDB). This commune-level, nationwide database contains comprehensive information on demography, natural resources, poverty, education, occupation, housing, transportation, gender and domestic violence, health, sanitation, access to clean water, governance, security, and on indigenous people.
For each CMDG, a few indicators derived from the CDB have been identified. For each of these indicators, a score ranging from 0 to 100 has been computed based on the required maximum or minimum value for the indicator (for example 100% for school enrolment or 0 for child mortality) and a cut-off point determined by the distribution of values at the baseline in 2006. Thus communes with an indicator value lying outside the cut-off point get a score of 0 and the others get a score proportional to the value of the indicator between the cut-off point and the maximum or minimum for that indicator. This helps normalize performance on all indicators and generate a weighted average of all scores in a goal area to compute a sore for that CMDG. In this way, it is possible to compute a score for each CMDG and an overall score for all CMDGs for every commune, district and province in the country and compare their performance over time. This scoring method is necessary because no sub-national targets have been set for CMDG and it is therefore not possible at this time to compare progress towards targets.
At the national scale, estimates of poverty derived from the CDB show that in the last five-year period poverty levels have dropped to 27.48 percent from 36.29 percent. Similarly, average progress on all CMDGs is also good, with a total CMDG score increasing from 44 to 54 over the last four years. But across all local levels – from province down to district and commune – the trends are marked by stark disparities from one CMDG goal to another. Such disparities are evident in the data presented at the launch.
Take as an example CMDG 4, Infant and Under Five mortality. In Ratanakiri and Preah Vihear provinces, the CMDG4 scores derived from the CDB stand at 18 and 19 respectively, in stark contrast to the scores in Phnom Penh and Kandal where the scores are 96 and 93 respectively, almost five times higher. For CMDG 5, Maternal Mortality, the commune database shows the same kind of contrast between Ratanakiri, Stung Treng, and Prey Vihear provinces on one hand and Takeo, Kandal and Phnom Penh on the other.
First-time users of the new scoring system, like Ms. Mao Pouthyroth, a youth activist, were impressed by the usefulness of the scorecards. She said that, first of all, it would help save time from conducting new surveys to collect data which is already contained in the Commune Database. Additionally, she said it would help development planners to better direct their efforts and funds on targets to where they are most needed.
“It is like a map showing us direction. Without it we had difficulty knowing where we needed to act more to make things better,” said Mao Pouthyroth who works as a coordinator of Youth Council of Cambodia, a local non-governmental organization.
Mr. Tiev Choulong, a Battambang province’s planning department advisor, said that while the Commune Database provides comprehensive information for development activities, the scorecards help to sharpen understanding of development landscape and focus on areas where progress is lagging.
“Through them we are able to know that if an indicator under one goal is below 50 points, this is not good and needs more attention to increase that score,” he said.
To emphasize the significance of the scorecards, Mr. Mean Thavorah, Deputy Director of Department of General Planning, Ministry of Planning, gave as another example how Cambodia’s northeastern province of Ratanakiri performs on MDG 2 – Achieve Universal Primary Education. There, he said, the rate of children not attending school is over 40 percent, compared to 20 percent in other cities and provinces.
“This represents a critical situation that (the leadership of) the province will need to focus their attention on to correct in the next five years,” he said.
With only five years left to the MDG target date of 2015, acceleration of the progress in attaining the MDGs is the “highest priority”, Ms. Elena Tischenko, Country Director of UNDP Cambodia, said.
“Underpinning this is the need to measure progress. I believe the MDG scorecards will play important role in helping Cambodia to redouble the efforts in the five years,” she said at the workshop.
The participants acknowledged that there is more work to be done to get the word about the scorecards out to all stakeholders at all levels across the country.
But Mr. Tiev Choulong, from Battambang province, said that, with the scorecards as “a head-light to guide our tasks”, he is optimistic that Cambodia will be able to realize more achievements of its MDGs.