Words have Power … of Riel & Dollar

I just returned from my annual overseas holiday trip with my sons. This time around we choose Siem Reap, Cambodia as our destination.

Cambodia’s official name is the Kingdom of Cambodia. The word Kingdom bring with it an context. Upon hearing it, our imagination drifts to a nation full of heritage, old and cultural. This context is true for this beautiful country. It is an old kingdom; in fact the oldest in South East Asia.

An ancient kingdom that can be proud of its role and heritage as being the centre of civilization in Asia. Their oldest temple dates back to even before the 1st century. As my guide says, Cambodia is an old country but a new democracy. Experiencing Angkor Wat will leave you in awe of its greatness. It borders to being miraculous how an ancient people have the vision and industry to build such a magnificent wonder; with each element well thought off not only technologically but culturally. Everything has its meaning; why the stone is laid this way and not that way, the orientation of the building, the number of corners etc.

This young country wants to stand on their own. Economically it is a viable country; natural resources aplenty. Foreign currency flows like water into this country via its tourism. Angkor Wat itself brings in 2 million visitors. If one visitor spend US$100, that is already US$200 million just from Angkor Wat alone!

However, I stand but to wonder will this young nation truly be able to claim their own economic sovereignty if it continues to be ashamed of the very basic/fundamentals of all financial instrument; their own currency; the Riel?

Everywhere I go in Siem Reap the standard initial quote is in US$; the menu, the hotel rate, their salary even to the tit bits sold at the cultural centre is quoted in US$.

Yes some might say there is no big deal in this. Money is money. However, if you ask around why they quote in US$ you will find that the prevailing answer is that US$ is more stable! This answer is a revelation of how they see their own currency thus their own economy. If their level of confidence is such about the stability of their own currency, what is the hope for their confidence in their own economy?

This has nothing to do with the US$. It all has to do with the mentality i.e. belief the Cambodian people have about their Riel.

Words the we choose describes more about us than it describes the subject we are talking about. The words we use is the direct result of our belief system which is a product of our historical discourse. The words we use also shapes not only our reality but also of those around us.

I can’t help but to wonder if the key to Cambodia’s economic transformation isn’t in the development of their economy but in the very simple fact of using Riel in their daily activity instead of US$.

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