Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Despite gains, development lags

Despite gains, development lags

Children in a school classroom in Phnom Penh. A recent UN human development report shows that Cambodia has seen an increase in access to education since 1990.
Children in a school classroom in Phnom Penh. A recent UN human development report shows that Cambodia has seen an increase in access to education since 1990. Vireak Mai

Despite gains, development lags

Between the years of 1990 and 2015, Cambodia saw the region’s highest rate of improvement in the UN’s Human Development Index, a metric that tracks wellbeing, though the country’s overall score remains well below the average for countries in East Asia and the Pacific, a new report from the UN Development Programme shows.

The Kingdom has seen improvements in health, education and overall living standards since the index was first measured, the report says, though the country’s overall HDI ranking in 2015 was still 143 out of 188 countries. That spot placed Cambodia among the medium development group, along with fellow ASEAN states Laos (138) and Myanmar (145).

In the 25 years studied, Cambodia’s HDI value – a composite figure meant to represent measures such as life expectancy, education and incomes – increased by 57 percent, to 0.563. On average, however, it still lags behind the medium development group’s average HDI of 0.631, and the regional average of 0.721.

“It’s a proxy that the lives of ordinary Cambodians have improved,” Napoleon Navarro, a senior policy adviser at UNDP, said of the index’s findings. “Cambodia has a lot to be proud of, but if it wants to sustain this, it needs to consider investing in human capital and to prepare for climate change.”

In the two decades since 1995, Cambodia’s gross national income increased nearly 280 percent, life expectancy at birth increased by more than 15 years and the average years of schooling attained also doubled.

Despite this, Navarro said the slowest improvements overall have been in the education sector. While the state has increased investment in education, “ordinary Cambodians are not investing as much as the government”, he said.

“Cambodians are dropping out [of school] to work,” he said, which can seem good in the short term because it generates income, but in the long run, limits their possibilities.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Children in a school classroom in Phnom Penh. A recent Human Development report says that Cambodia seen an increased education access since 1990. Vireak Mai

Access to a diverse range of jobs is also still an issue, said Federico Barreras, a project manager at the Open Institute. “I think Cambodia would benefit from having more diversified sectors,” he said. “It would be more attractive for investors as well.”

When it comes to the gains the country has made in health, Chum Sopha, executive director of the NGO Health and Development Alliance, said the sector has seen improvement in human resources, but less so in services.

“In terms of services, they still remain unsatisfactory,” he said. Despite improvements, Cambodia still faces challenges such as reducing poverty and inequality to ensure that certain populations are not left behind.

For example, indigenous people are disadvantaged by higher-than-average poverty rates, limited access to education and health, and fewer representatives than majority groups in decision-making institutions.

“The same groups are doubly deprived because their livelihoods rely more heavily on natural resources and agriculture than those of other population groups, and the impact of climate change on their livelihoods has been high,” the report reads.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Thy Sovantha threatens new suit

    Social media celebrity and card-carrying CPP member Thy Sovantha yesterday said she will file a lawsuit against wildlife NGO head Suwanna Gauntlett alleging discrimination after the latter allegedly denied her access to an ecotourism program the group is launching today in Koh Kong province. The

  • Police raid Siem Reap party, arrest 10 foreigners over ‘pornographic’ images

    A group of 10 foreign tourists appeared in court today after being arrested for producing “pornographic” photos in Siem Reap town on Thursday, while dozens more were detained temporarily and let go after being lectured on their behaviour, according to authorities. A report posted to the

  • Hun Sen’s in-law removed from RCAF after cockfighting rings raided

    Thai Phany, the nephew-in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen who is accused of running two large cockfighting rings, has been removed as a general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Phany, formerly a one-star brigadier general, was removed by royal decree on December 19, according to

  • Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

    The government has signed off on a proposal to build a new airport to serve Phnom Penh and has earmarked land in Kandal province for the $1.5 billion project. A new international airport to replace the existing Phnom Penh International Airport will be constructed on partially