Hanoi (VNA) – Cambodia’s poverty rate could nearly double to 17.6 percent and unemployment could rise to 4.8 percent, according to a policy brief that assesses the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in Cambodia released by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on October 8.

It was launched through careful consultation with the Cambodian Ministry of Economy and Fiance (MEF) and other partners.

The impact assessment uses three models to measure impact and model scenarios that can mitigate further risks resulting from the pandemic.

The assessment estimates that economic growth could contract from an original 6.5 percent for 2020 to minus 4.1 percent. Under this scenario, the poverty rate and unemployment are forecast to surge to 17.6 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively. Cambodia’s poverty rate fell significantly to 10 percent last year from 53.2 percent in 2004.

A social protection stimulus of 3.5 percent of GDP would limit GDP contraction to minus 3.3 percent and lessen the impact on unemployment and poverty to 4.4 percent and 14.2 percent, respectively, the assessment says. This social protection stimulus would prevent 570,000 people from sliding back into poverty.

“The modelling of economic and social impacts can help us better understand the impact of this global pandemic on Cambodia and how we can best design stimulus packages in response,” said Nick Beresford, UNDP Resident Representative.

Earlier this week, the Cambodian government announced it will extend the COVID-19 relief programme for another three months for about 600,000 poor families, equivalent to more than 3 million people.

Chhour Sopanha, director of Cambodia’s Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said the extra fund is up to 300 million USD.

The country has so far set out two phases for the support, with the first phase covering June and July, and the second phase covering August and September./.