If global fuel costs stay consistent, the Asian Development Bank predicts that Cambodia will have one of the lowest inflation in Southeast Asia this year.

Cambodia’s annual inflation rate decreased to 2.1% last year from 5.3% in 2022 and is expected to reach 2.0% this year.

This contrasts with 15.5% in Myanmar and 20.0% in Laos. 4.0% in Singapore, 3.0% in the Philippines, 2.8% in Indonesia, 2.6% in Malaysia, and 3.8% in Vietnam. Only Thailand (1.0%) and Brunei (1.1%) are predicted to see price increases smaller than Cambodia.

CONSUMER PRICES​

Consumer prices are the most extensively studied indicator of inflation in Cambodia and, every month, the National Institute of Statistics releases the total consumer price index (CPI), which tracks prices for goods and services.

Additionally, it releases distinct indexes for specific things such as health care, transportation, communications, and education to food, clothes, water, and electricity.

The largest increases were in restaurant pricing, up 1.1%, and transportation costs, up 2.4% from February of the previous year. Smaller increases—up only 0.1%—for other things like communications more than offset these.

CAMBODIA HOUSING PRICES​

In 2022, the National Bank of Cambodia introduced a house price index in response to a surge in real estate transactions.

This new indicator (the residential property price index or RPPI), evaluates overall prices in this housing situation countrywide, much like the CPI.

The information is based on specifics of home loans made by local banks in Cambodia.

The total score for Phnom Penh and the provinces in June 2022 was 109 points, 9% higher than its average of 100 points in 2020.The index rose to a peak of 116 points in the middle of last year — 16 % above the average for 2020 — before retreating to around 112 points at the end of 2023, which remained early this year.​

The housing index, in contrast to the CPI, consists of just two sub-indices: one for Phnom Penh and another for the provinces, however, this may alter.

CAMBODIA NATIONAL BANK CONCERNS​

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that employees of central banks have recently “raised concerns about the trajectory of the price index” and requested an examination of the procedures and software employed.

In January, the IMF dispatched a 5-day technical delegation to Phnom Penh, headed by Barra Casey, a senior economist with expertise in real-estate data at the IMF in Washington.

Casey is a former central banker with a wealth of real estate industry knowledge. He had previously worked for the Bank of Ireland, a nation whose collapse of the property bubble in 2008 set the stage for the collapse of the “Celtic Tiger” economy and subsequent commercial banking crisis.

Published on May 3, Casey’s report demonstrates that worries regarding the trend of the index were well-founded.

For instance, it examined the overall index of house prices over the 18 months leading up to June 2021. The released data indicates a 16% increase. However, revised data show that the index increased by just 11%, suggesting that the rate of price rises had been overstated.

‘VERY TIMELY’​

The central bank’s monthly survey, according to the IMF evaluation, is predicated on hundreds of housing loans. In 2022, the average monthly number was 1,260; in 2023, it was 880.

The report stated that it is “extremely timely” that NBC released the data.

The data is received by the central bank ten days after the reference month, and verifications are typically finished by the twentieth day, enabling publishing at the beginning of the subsequent month.

Details about houses include the cost, address, and dimensions in addition to the kind of property, ownership, number of stories, and building year.

INFORMATION GAPS​

Foreign bank loans are not covered by monthly surveys, nor cash purchases and acquisitions not funded by developer loans.

Flats are also not included in the surveys, presumably because foreign-purchased apartments are done so primarily with loans funded by foreign banks.

The IMF advised the national bank to integrate its loan data with information from other sources, like the General Department of Taxation under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, to gain a better understanding of the overall size of the market.

According to the report, “NBC should develop a longer-term strategy to close the coverage gap by investigating new data sources.”

Given that it “may not be able to access transaction-level data from administrative sources readily, it was felt that listings information from real-estate websites may be the best option to research initially.”​

In the medium run, the research recommended that the central bank stick with the data it now has on bank loans, augmented with new information from microfinance institutions that it has already been gathering. This primarily relates to provincial real estate transactions.

BROADER COVERAGE OF PHNOM PENH​

It was decided to change the loan requirements during the IMF mission, bringing down the minimum land area from 40 to 20 square meters.

Additionally, it was discovered that loans to real estate developers ought to be disregarded because the money goes toward paying contractors and buying supplies rather than acquiring residential real estate.

The largest modification that was thoroughly examined was broadening the sub-indices present geographic scope, which is restricted to Phnom Penh and the surrounding areas.

The IMF suggested partitioning the capital into three regions based on “sufficient observations within Phnom Penh”: Central and East Phnom Penh (eight khans), Inner Suburbs (four khans), and Outer Suburbs (four khans).

DECEMBER DEADLINE​

By June, the IMF requested that revised indexes be computed and contrasted with publicly available data. Once it has been determined whether to update the outdated data dating back to 2020, improved techniques could be incorporated into the December compilation of the house price indexes.

The IMF report also suggested that the new methodology for producing the indices be made public on the NBC website.

The IMF delegation discovered that the Cambodian government is “strongly committed to improving the methodology.”

“Reliable real estate market indicators, such as property price indices, are crucial for evaluating market trends and risks as well as comprehending the connections between the real estate sector and financial stability.”

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