Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia: from poverty reduction to shared prosperity



Cambodia: from poverty reduction to shared prosperity

A student is administered a vaccine during class at Chaktomok school in Phnom Penh in 2013.
A student is administered a vaccine during class at Chaktomok school in Phnom Penh in 2013. Vireak Mai

Cambodia: from poverty reduction to shared prosperity

Before I set foot in this beautiful country, I was told the story of Siv Mao and her newborn baby.

Last year, Siv Mao, a young woman from a village in northern Cambodia gave birth to a boy after an emergency Caesarean section at a new hospital in her province’s capital.

The boy was named Rith Samnang “Lucky” for a good reason: without the doctors and modern equipment in the new 16 Makara Hospital in Preah Vihear, he wouldn’t have been able to survive.

The traditional midwife had difficulty assisting the birth at her home, and other hospitals were far away.

Baby Lucky is a symbol of Cambodia’s development success in the last decade: the country has gone a long way in improving economic and social conditions for its people, especially the poorest.

The Cambodian economy grew on average 7.8 per cent in 2004-2014, attaining one of the fastest growth rates in the world during this period. Gross domestic product growth was driven by construction and exports, especially textiles, tourism and rice.

Cambodia’s membership in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has created significant opportunities for integrating into regional and global value chains.

The fast pace of economic growth has helped lift 5 million people out of poverty since 2004 and has made Cambodia a leader in poverty reduction, both in East Asia and across the globe.

Today, over 2 million people live below the national poverty line, down from nearly 7 million people. A small but growing number of residents are becoming middle class.

Along with improved per-capita incomes, Cambodians today enjoy longer life expectancy, higher literacy levels and easier access to immunisation, water and sanitation services, electricity and mobile phones.

Child mortality has declined by nearly two-thirds in the past decade, maternal mortality has fallen by half, and primary school enrollment increased significantly.

At the same time, Cambodia continues to face important development challenges. First and foremost, there is the challenge to further reduce poverty.

Continued strong and inclusive growth will be key to achieve this objective. In this context, it will be important to maintain a solid macroeconomic framework complemented by reforms to promote private sector investments and improve public service delivery.

In particular, concerted efforts will be needed to improve nutrition and education outcomes. For example, almost one third of children under five are stunted, more than one-third of second-graders can’t read, and the enrollment rate in upper secondary schools is below 15 per cent.

In addition, there remain challenges in the provision of basic economic infrastructure. More than 12 million people, over 80 per cent of the population, are still waiting to get access to piped water. More access roads are needed so farmers can get goods to markets and children can go to schools.

The World Bank Group is committed to supporting Cambodia in addressing these challenges. Our mission is to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost prosperity among the poorest 40 per cent in low- and middle-income countries.

With the United Nations adopting the Sustainable Development Goals last month, there is a renewed global commitment to improving social and economic conditions around the world, and the World Bank Group is an integral part of this effort. In this context, we are focused on boosting inclusive economic growth, investing in people, and providing social protection for the poor and vulnerable, including when natural disasters hit.

During a nationwide dialogue we held with Cambodians this summer, we learned firsthand what Cambodians from urban and rural areas feel they need to improve their lives and reduce poverty.

Their expectation is that international institutions like the World Bank can help improve their economic and social prospects especially in areas such as agriculture, health, education and transportation.

Above all, we learned the Cambodian people are remarkably resilient and they have very clear ideas on how to shape their own destiny.

We are committed to accompanying Cambodia on its journey toward shared prosperity.

Axel van Trotsenburg is the regional vice president of the World Bank for East Asia and Pacific.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol

  • Ministry to 'seek justice' for officials indicted in US for 'monkey smuggling'

    The Cambodian government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said they will make the “utmost effort” to seek justice for a Cambodian official arrested in John F Kennedy International Airport in New York for allegedly conspiring to smuggle crab-eating macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis)