Out of reach.

This week we’re looking at Cambodia’s urgent need for aged care, how social media entered the fight against HIV and why the region’s governments are struggling to raise the revenue they need.

Written By:
July 27, 2019
Out of reach.

The spread of HIV/AIDS across Southeast Asia has been devastating. And while increased testing and less debilitating treatments have massively reduced the rate of HIV infections across the region, the road to recovery has been a long one.

In July 2008, Southeast Asia Globe visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand dedicated to relieving the suffering of those living with HIV and AIDS – by relying on the steady tread of tour groups through the makeshift hospice.

But changing times have pushed the fight against HIV into a new frontier. In Indonesia, a cacophony of fake news, conspiracy theories and misinformation awaits those searching desperately for a way out of their illness on the internet. And with the government cracking down on more established LGBT-friendly spaces, the groups most vulnerable to the spread of HIV are finding themselves fighting to untangle fact from fiction – sometimes with fatal consequences.

Last week, 1,600 tonnes of plastic waste spilled out onto Cambodia’s Sihanoukville docks as 83 shipping containers that had sat unchecked for months were finally raided by port authorities. And although Southeast Asia is no stranger to plastic scraps clogging its streets, it’s not just their own mess they’re forced to deal with. No matter where it starts, three-quarters of the world’s exported waste winds up in Asia, shipped to developing nations by wealthier Western countries keen to wash their hands of plastic scrap. And now, the bin is fighting back

But it’s hard to invest in the nation you need to build without enough cash to go around. Newly published OECD figures show that the five biggest Southeast Asian economies have tax-to-GDP ratios of half or less than the 2017 OECD average of 34.2%

And these are more than just numbers on a spreadsheet. Increased tax revenues, if spent transparently and fairly, should in time lead to better and more widely available health and education systems, reducing overall inequality. We look at how Southeast Asia traded higher taxes for greater foreign investment – and how the ensuing shortfall is forcing more and more countries to look to China to make up the difference.

With more and more rural Cambodians leaving their homes in search of work, the Kingdom’s youngest generation is being left in the hands of the country’s oldest. But while most families’ grandparents are happy to lend a hand, they lack the support and social security to ensure that the children have access to everything they need to flourish in later life. We look at how Cambodia’s elderly can get the help they need to bring up the next generation.

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