CRIT­I­CAL PREPARATIONS

With a new Crit­i­cal Ill­ness Ben­e­fit fea­tur­ing com­pet­i­tive fi­nan­cial and di­ag­noses cov­er­age, Man­ulife Cam­bo­dia is help­ing the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion over­come try­ing times and get back to the life and fam­ily they love

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The shat­ter­ing di­ag­no­sis of can­cer brings at once the weight of mor­tal­ity and fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity as pa­tients bal­ance med­i­cal treat­ment and the cost of be­ing ab­sent from work while they re­cover. As med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als con­tinue to chase the cure to can­cer, rates of in­ci­dence are only ex­pected to in­crease in com­ing years.

World­wide, the tragic di­ag­no­sis met the ears of 14 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide in 2012 and is ex­pected to in­crease to 25 mil­lion peo­ple in the next two decades, ac­cord­ing to the 2014 World Can­cer Re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer, part of the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion. The brunt of this—roughly 60%— was felt by pa­tients in low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries. In South­east Asia alone, can­cer rates are ex­pected to sky­rocket by 2030 to lev­els 40% higher than those in 2012.

De­spite this har­row­ing news, there is hope for re­cov­ery.

“There’s more and more re­search com­ing out that if you get di­ag­nosed early and you get the treat­ment that you need, the sur­vival rate is re­ally high,” says Kann Nara, chief client of­fi­cer for Man­ulife Cam­bo­dia. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety, Can­cer Facts & Fig­ures 2016, the sur­vival rate from such illnesses can be higher than 90% if the di­ag­noses and treat­ment are re­ceived early.

With this in mind, Man­ulife launched its new Crit­i­cal Ill­ness Ben­e­fit last month, which pro­vides up to $100,000 in fi­nan­cial sup­port upon di­ag­no­sis of one of 14 cov­ered crit­i­cal illnesses, from can­cer to lung or liver dis­ease.

“We un­der­stand that peo­ple here worry about crit­i­cal illnesses. Ev­ery­one has this fear of get­ting can­cer or hav­ing a heart at­tack. In the old days when you had this kind of dis­ease, the men­tal­ity was, ‘That’s it, that’s the end of you.’ It’s not like that any­more,” Nara says. “Cam­bo­di­ans are do­ing their part by tak­ing care of their health and get­ting reg­u­lar check­ups. But what hap­pens if they do get the early crit­i­cal ill­ness di­ag­no­sis? Will they have the fi­nan­cial pro­tec­tion that they need?”

In re­sponse, Man­ulife’s Crit­i­cal Ill­ness Ben­e­fit goes be­yond pay­ing for med­i­cal care, al­low­ing pa­tients to cush­ion their salary so they can take leave from work to get treat­ment and re­cover with­out mak­ing them fi­nan­cially un­sta­ble. The new ben­e­fit can be folded into Man­ulife’s ed­u­ca­tion or savings plan to pro­vide ex­tra pro­tec­tion to fam­i­lies or adults age 18 to 55. A 25-year-old man, for ex­am­ple, could add a $10,000 Crit­i­cal Ill­ness Ben­e­fit to his savings plan for less than $15 a year, Nara ex­plains.

“We are hop­ing that the early stage ben­e­fit would help you get the treat­ment that you need to sur­vive and stay longer with your fam­ily, with your loved ones, which has a higher value than any­thing else,” she says.

The com­pany is com­mit­ted to build­ing a bet­ter and health­ier fu­ture for Cam­bo­dian fam­i­lies, Nara ex­plains. “We are work­ing hard to make sure we are pro­vid­ing the most needed so­lu­tions for our cus­tomers and to show that we are there for them.”

This ded­i­ca­tion to bet­ter­ing the lives of the Cam­bo­dian peo­ple has been un­der­scored by a se­ries of Asia Pa­cific Cus­tomer Ser­vice Con­sor­tium awards that Man­ulife Cam­bo­dia has won in 2018 to recog­nise their work. For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, Man­ulife was recog­nised with Cus­tomer En­gage­ment of the Year and CSR Pro­gram of the Year awards, as well as first time recog­ni­tion as Best Brand of the Year and CEO of the Year for the in­sur­ance cat­e­gory (to the com­pany’s CEO Robert El­liott).

“These awards give the staff here a stronger com­mit­ment, make us feel proud and make us want to con­tinue to do more for our lo­cal com­mu­nity,” says Nara.

What have been the great­est chal­lenges you’ve faced dur­ing your term? De­spite these achieve­ments, the gov­ern­ment has been well aware that sev­eral chal­lenges still re­main, such as slow speed of eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, rais­ing wages, high lo­gis­tics costs, higher elec­tric­ity costs com­pared to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and a short­age of skilled labour. In this sense, the gov­ern­ment has been proac­tive to ad­dress these chal­lenges.

To diver­sify our econ­omy, the gov­ern­ment has re­vised the Law on In­vest­ment and In­cen­tive Schemes to at­tract cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries and to pro­mote the ex­pan­sion of ex­ist­ing in­vest­ment. We have also de­cided to re­duce the elec­tric­ity tar­iff grad­u­ally from 2019 for in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial users with the aim of reach­ing a level com­pa­ra­ble to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

To bring the cost of do­ing busi­ness down, the gov­ern­ment has in­vested heav­ily in main in­fra­struc­ture such as build­ing a new ex­press­way, ex­pand­ing [Preah Si­hanouk] sea­port and en­larg­ing all na­tional roads con­nected to main eco­nomic hubs and neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. At the same time, the gov­ern­ment has been pro­mot­ing trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion by im­ple­ment­ing the Na­tional Sin­gle Win­dow [cus­toms por­tal], sim­pli­fy­ing and au­toma­tis­ing cus­toms pro­ce­dures both on val­u­a­tion and clear­ance, and re­vis­ing agen­cies’ sta­tion­ing at in­ter­na­tional bor­der check­points and ports.

We have also been ac­tive in pro­mot­ing small and medium en­ter­prises [SMEs] by set­ting up SME banks and in­tro­duc­ing in­cen­tive schemes for SMEs. To ad­dress the short­age of skilled labour, the gov­ern­ment has in­creased the bud­get for ed­u­ca­tion and vo­ca­tional train­ing by more than three­fold. Where do you see the most promis­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for fi­nan­cial growth in the coun­try? There con­tin­ues to be strong pub­lic con­fi­dence in the bank­ing sec­tor, as re­flected by healthy in­creases in credit as well as de­posit ac­tiv­i­ties and its sub­stan­tial at­trac­tion of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in­flows – par­tic­u­larly in mi­cro­fi­nance in­sti­tu­tions [MFI]. Re­mark­able fi­nan­cial

“Cam­bo­dia’s com­pet­i­tive edge comes from a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors… [such as] rel­a­tively com­pet­i­tive labour costs, favourable de­mo­graphic fac­tors, with around 60% of the pop­u­la­tion un­der 30 years and a rapidly grow­ing mid­dle class, and its strate­gic lo­ca­tion at the cen­tre of Asean”

deep­en­ing to­gether with rapid adop­tion of new tech­nolo­gies – no­tably in pay­ments sys­tems – have sup­ported im­proved fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion. While MFIs’ in­creas­ing pres­ence and sig­nif­i­cance has greatly con­trib­uted to im­prov­ing ac­cess to credit, the in­no­va­tions in fin­tech have also opened up new pos­si­bil­i­ties in the pro­vi­sion of fi­nan­cial ser­vices, in­clud­ing low-cost ac­cess to credit and savings ve­hi­cles and trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion. Fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion in Cam­bo­dia has grown sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years, with the Na­tional Bank of Cam­bo­dia es­ti­mat­ing in 2016 that 71% of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion had ac­cess to fi­nan­cial ser­vices while 59% use for­mal bank­ing ser­vices. How can the coun­try con­tinue to pro­pel fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion and en­sure that cit­i­zens are get­ting the most out of fi­nan­cial ac­cess? Fin­tech may play a crit­i­cal role in sup­port­ing fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion through the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try’s fi­nan­cial in­fra­struc­ture. These in­no­va­tions have pro­vided ac­cess to a wide va­ri­ety of fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, helped in the in­te­gra­tion of fi­nan­cial and credit mar­kets within the coun­try and re­duced fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tion costs. But en­hanc­ing fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy needs to be ex­panded fur­ther, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas where fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy is low – not only to in­crease fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion, but also to im­prove over­all al­lo­ca­tion ef­fi­ciency. In the non-bank sec­tor, the coun­try can work on de­vel­op­ing well-func­tion­ing in­sur­ance mar­kets and broader cap­i­tal mar­kets to ex­pand the range of fi­nan­cial ser­vices as well as to har­ness do­mes­tic re­sources for in­vest­ment. What should the gov­ern­ment do to bet­ter in­cor­po­rate bank­ing into daily life in Cam­bo­dia? To bet­ter in­cor­po­rate bank­ing and mod­ern fi­nan­cial ser­vices into Cam­bo­dian daily life, the gov­ern­ment has sought to en­cour­age cit­i­zens to use bank­ing ser­vices through cre­at­ing e-gov­ern­ment pay­ment sys­tems where tax, non-tax and other pub­lic fees can be paid via on­line plat­form. Govern­mentsup­ported pay­ment plat­forms will not only bet­ter in­cor­po­rate bank­ing and fi­nan­cial ser­vices into Cam­bo­di­ans’ daily lives, but they will also in­crease trans­parency in all gov­ern­ment fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions. En­cour­ag­ing pri­vate in­vest­ment in e-pay­ment sys­tems is an­other ini­tia­tive of ours. The gov­ern­ment will de­velop a strat­egy [for the] dig­i­tal econ­omy to pro­vide the pri­vate sec­tor a re­li­able plat­form, and may pro­vide tax in­cen­tives to e-pay­ment busi­nesses to pro­mote in­vest­ment and growth of this sec­tor. Where does Cam­bo­dia have a com­pet­i­tive edge against its Asean neigh­bours eco­nom­i­cally, and what should be done to fully take ad­van­tage of this?

Over­all, Cam­bo­dia’s com­pet­i­tive edge comes from a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors: po­lit­i­cal and macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity, the open­ness of the econ­omy, ro­bust and sus­tained eco­nomic growth, rel­a­tively com­pet­i­tive labour costs, favourable de­mo­graphic fac­tors, with around 60% of the pop­u­la­tion un­der 30 years and a rapidly grow­ing mid­dle class, and its strate­gic lo­ca­tion at the cen­tre of Asean. To fully take ad­van­tage of these strengths, the gov­ern­ment needs to ac­cel­er­ate in­sti­tu­tional struc­tural re­forms and set out fur­ther pol­icy mea­sures to cre­ate an en­abling busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, im­prove trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion, re­duce elec­tric­ity price and lo­gis­tics costs, boost pro­duc­tiv­ity, and fur­ther sup­port SMEs and star­tups. As Cam­bo­dia’s mid­dle class con­tin­ues to grow, what should be done to boost in­comes coun­try­wide and

how do you see this im­pact­ing the coun­try’s fu­ture? Be­sides en­sur­ing sus­tain­able high eco­nomic growth, the gov­ern­ment is im­ple­ment­ing a num­ber of fis­cal and so­cial pro­tec­tion poli­cies to in­crease in­come coun­try­wide. We are de­sign­ing an eq­ui­table tax pol­icy by en­sur­ing that the tax bur­den on the poor is not raised, en­sur­ing the tax sys­tem is not bi­ased and strength­en­ing ef­forts across agen­cies to com­bat tax avoid­ance and tax eva­sion. We’re also pro­mot­ing fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion by re­duc­ing fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tion costs through fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy and reg­u­la­tion and pro­mot­ing the use of dig­i­tal pay­ments by SMEs. Pro­duc­tiv­ity in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor is also be­ing im­proved through ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems, pro­mot­ing safe fer­tiliser us­age, pro­vid­ing ac­cess to high-yield­ing va­ri­eties of crops and sup­port­ing agro-pro­cess­ing in­dus­tries.

Man­ulife Cam­bo­dia CEO Robert El­liott and the com­pany’s se­nior man­age­ment team at the launch of the Crit­i­cal Ill­ness Ben­e­fit last month

Man­ulife Cam­bo­dia’s chief client of­fi­cer Kann Nara

The fi­nance min­is­ter said Cam­bo­dia aims to in­crease in­comes with fis­cal and so­cialpro­tec­tion poli­cies

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