The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided approximately $4.8 billion for 207 development activities in Cambodia as of December 31, 2023, significantly contributing to the country’s socio-economic progress since its first loan in 1970.

Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth made the remarks during the inauguration of ADB’s new resident mission in Phnom Penh’s Vattanac Capital on June 12. 

"Of this, approximately $4.2 billion is concessional lending for financing 137 projects and programmes, with 88 completed and 49 ongoing. About $568 million is in grants for financing 70 projects and programmes, with 44 completed and 26 ongoing," said Pornmoniroth.

ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa said the opening of its new resident mission in the heart of Phnom Penh celebrates not just a new office but also the deep bonds and shared development goals between the institution and Cambodia.

"Our efforts have spanned multiple sectors, focused on enhancing rural infrastructure, education, agriculture and health services, all with the aim of improving the lives and livelihoods of Cambodia's people," said Asakawa.

The inauguration of the new country office coincides with the launch of the bank’s Cambodia Country Partnership Strategy for 2024-2028. 

The roadmap aims to accelerate the country’s development towards reaching upper-middle-income status by 2030 and high-income by 2050, with a planned funding of approximately $1.263 billion and additional mobilisation of $283 million from other development partners (DPs).

“It emphasises economic diversification, human capital development and climate resilience, while advancing crosscutting priorities like governance, gender equality, digitalisation and regional cooperation and integration,” said Asakawa.

Cambodia, one of founding members of ADB in 1966, received its first loan of $1.67 million for the Phnom Penh High Voltage Transmission Project in 1970. 

Cooperation was suspended from 1975 to 1990 due to internal conflict and the Khmer Rouge regime, which severely deteriorated the economy and destroyed infrastructure.

"Cambodia was one of ADB's founding members. Since then, [its] financing has been instrumental in rehabilitating our infrastructure, boosting our trade capacity and supporting our education and agriculture sectors," said Pornmoniroth.

In 1991 and 1992, despite security concerns over ongoing civil war and banditry, ADB sent missions to Cambodia to assess the economy, social needs and priority sectors, and to establish the legal and operational framework for its lending. 

In November 1992, shortly after the Paris Peace Agreements, the bank provided Cambodia a $67.7 million loan for 1992-1996 to rehabilitate critical infrastructure in transport, energy, agriculture and education, along with $4.2 million in technical assistance to support implementing agencies.

“In the 1990s, ADB’s financial support was crucial in rehabilitating 560 kilometres of national roads, 23 bridges and critical sections of the railway network,” said Pornmoniroth.

He mentioned other projects, such as Cambodia’s deep seaport in Sihanoukville, which was revitalised to boost trade, and the new diesel generators installed in Phnom Penh, enhancing the city’s power supply.

He said the agriculture sector benefited from repaired irrigation systems that fed water to 10,000 hectares of farmland, significantly boosting productivity.

According to Pornmoniroth, the bank’s support spans critical sectors such as agriculture, natural resources, water supply, urban development, transportation, information technology, industry, commerce, finance, public administration, governance, education, skills development, health and energy.

He noted this aligns with phase one of the government’s Pentagonal Strategy for growth, employment, equity, efficiency and sustainability. 

The strategy focuses on five priorities: people, roads, water, electricity and technology, particularly digital technology, to address Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the country’s digital transformation.

"In the education sector, ADB's financing helped repair 67 secondary schools, three technical institutes and two teacher training colleges," highlighted Pornmoniroth, emphasising the broad impact of the bank’s support.

He said the bank has also been attentive to emergent needs, such as disaster responses and tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The minister said that the institution has responded quickly to challenges in the country, providing $115.25 million for flood damage rehabilitation in 2000 and 2011, and offering $35 million in concessional loans for emergency aid projects during the 2008 food price crisis.

"ADB has supported Cambodia in immediate and timely response to the Covid-19 pandemic through the provision of concessional lending totaling $250 million," he added.

Based on all these active and proactive efforts, the Cambodian economy in 2023 is assessed to have achieved a growth rate of about 5%, according to the minister. 

“In 2024, [it] is expected to grow at a rate of 6%, driven by the resurgence of the global economy, especially that of Cambodia's trading partners,” he stated. 

Meanwhile, he said, domestic economic activity remains stable and positive, supported by the government's efforts to implement policies and strategies. 

These efforts focus on restoring existing growth sectors and promoting new potential sectors, including investment in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and informal economic development.