The world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – of which Cambodia is one – are stuck in a paradox of rapidly growing economies that veer far short of global goals to reduce poverty, according to a recent report by the United Nations.
Cambodia continues to be ranked as one of 48 LDCs that are “trapped in a vicious circle of economic and human underdevelopment”, the report by UNCTAD, the UN’s trade and development arm, says.
While Asia’s LDCs are outperforming those in other regions, almost all LDCs are set to fail the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire next year. But those targets, and especially the goal to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty, can only be realised if they are also achieved in the most challenging, vulnerable areas, the report says.
“LDCs are the battleground on which the post-2015 development agenda will be won or lost. Its success will depend on action by the international community and the LDCs to structurally transform their economies and break the vicious circle of human and economic development that has trapped these countries in poverty,” UNCTAD said.
Out of the seven MDGs analysed in the report, Cambodia has achieved progress or is on track for all but one: access to sanitation facilities.
“Apart from the direct benefits of improved water and sanitation services, [improved sanitation access] can also contribute to human development, help to lower infant mortality and increase school attendance and educational attainment,” the UNCTAD report said.
The Ministry of Rural Development declined to comment yesterday, but previous government studies estimate the annual economic loss due to poor sanitation and hygiene in Cambodia exceeds $448 million.
Despite those issues, Cambodia is expected to graduate to lower-middle-income status “this year or the next year at the latest”, according to ADB economist Jan Hansen.
A country graduates after its citizens’ per capita annual income exceeds $1,045.
“We started at a low point . . . But I think we are on the right track to graduate in a couple of years,” said Chan Sophal, head of the Cambodian Economic Association.