Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - World Bank to re-engage after five-year absence

World Bank to re-engage after five-year absence

Activists protest at the World Bank’s Phnom Penh headquarters in 2014, calling for the reconsideration of millions in loans for the development of land concessions.
Activists protest at the World Bank’s Phnom Penh headquarters in 2014, calling for the reconsideration of millions in loans for the development of land concessions.

World Bank to re-engage after five-year absence

The World Bank has approved $130 million in developmental aid aimed at reducing poverty in Cambodia, signalling its first direct re-engagement with the Kingdom since it left in protest in 2011 after one of the largest forceful evictions led by the government displaced more than 3,000 families.

The decision came last week when the World Bank’s executive directors voted on a new Country Engagement Note (CEN) that approved financing of four projects including infrastructure development, clean-water projects, agriculture production and access to health care.

The projects will be supported by $130 million in concessional credits from the bank’s International Development Association with repayment schedules stretched over 25 to 45 years.

“Our new engagement with Cambodia starts with projects aimed to bring tangible benefits for Cambodians,” said Ulrich Zachau, country director of the World Bank for Southeast Asia, in a press release.

The vote to restart lending marks a stark departure from its lending freeze in 2011, when more than 3,000 families were evicted from Boeung Kak lake after Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin began filling in the lake after his company, Shukaku, was awarded a 99-year lease of more than 100 hectares of land in 2007 to develop the Phnom Penh City Centre project.

At the time, the World Bank was involved in a $24.3 million land-titling project, which was accused of denying thousands of Cambodians property rights.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, said that between 50 to 100 families were still waiting for adequate redress.

“I am disappointed that the World Bank has decided to lend to the government again while there are still families that are landless,” he said. “Unless part of this $130 million involves an action plan to help the evictees, the people will continue to protest.”

He added that while the programs lack detailed information on how they will be implemented, the question remains if adequate safeguards are in place.

Ear Sophal, the author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, explained that the decision to issue lending could not have been timed any worse.

“The World Bank has managed [to pick] just about the worst moment ever: just when a bunch of human rights activists have been arrested and are essentially being targeted,” he wrote in an email.

“The overall significance is that the authorities can take this to the bank and gloat about how normalcy has returned to Cambodia with the World Bank’s vote of confidence,” he said, adding that the organisation was “politically tone deaf”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen warmly welcomed by president Biden

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, as ASEAN chair, and other ASEAN leaders were warmly welcomed by US president Joe Biden as the ASEAN-US summit May 12-13 kicked off today in Washington. “This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in

  • Third Makro outlet planned for capital’s Chroy Changvar

    Makro (Cambodia) Co Ltd is set to invest $12.7 million in its third Cambodian outlet, this time in northeast Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district, an area dotted with high-end residential developments, as shopping behaviours continue to evolve in tandem with economic growth. The Cambodian Investment