A two-day regional seminar is underway in Phnom Penh to address the growing needs of the least developed countries (LDCs) in Asia and the Pacific to strengthen their national economies amid global crises.

The event – held from November 23-24 under the theme “Capacity Building, Productivity and Transformation Facilitation of Least Developed Countries in the Asia-Pacific Region” – is co-organised by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Cambodia’s National Committee for ESCAP.

According to the committee’s November 23 press release, the seminar aims to address the LDCs’ growing needs by enabling them to build their production capacities to ensure they can effectively reform their economic structures. This would allow them to graduate from the LDC status while maintaining growth momentum and participating in the global economy as permanent partners in the high value-added segment.

Delegations from the LDCs in the region including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Laos, Nepal and Timor-Leste were among those in attendance at the seminar.

Senior Minister Ly Thuch, chairman of Cambodia’s National Committee for ESCAP, shared his personal views on the factors that had contributed to the Kingdom’s development. He said Cambodia has proved that peace and political stability are necessary factor for building an economic base and social development.

He noted that since gaining comprehensive peace in 1998 up until the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak, Cambodia’s economy had grown and diversified significantly.

The Kingdom had an average economic growth rate of around 7.7 per cent per year between 1998 and 2019, making it one of the fastest growing countries in the world. The poverty rate declined from 53 per cent in 2004 to 17.8 per cent in 2019, he added.

“The prosperity of the Kingdom, which includes the sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction and improvement in living standards that we all enjoy today, did not happen by chance. They were the result of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s win-win policy, which ended decades of civil war and provided inclusion to Cambodians of all walks of life and political affiliations,” he said.

“Cambodia achieved peace and national reconciliation for the first time in its modern history in late 1998, when the more than 30 years of civil war ended with the eventual Khmer Rouge soldier reintegration,” he added.

During the Covid-19 crisis, Cambodia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth shrank, but it began to recover in 2021. And emerging from low-income country status to low-middle-income country status in 2015 is an indicator that the Kingdom will be a high-middle-income nation by 2030, according to Thuch.

In early November, the government officially launched the National Policy Framework for Cambodia’s Economic Productivity 2022-2035, which aims to promote the national economy by attracting investors, increasing human resource capacity and productivity, driving innovation and optimising structural systems.

According to the ESCAP national committee, the framework sets out a vision to enhance economic productivity based on a highly skilled workforce and higher socio-economic development momentum.

“To achieve this vision, Cambodia needs the participation and support of international partners everywhere. The many successes that the Kingdom has achieved in the past show the importance of outside contributions,” said Thuch.

“Achieving the government’s goals will require cooperation with development partners, the private sector and all state institutions,” he added.