Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power in Cambodia for the last three decades. He became prime minister in 1985 at 33 years old and secured his base of power through captivating leadership, intimidation and patronage system. During his tenure, socio-political skepticism and instability remained ingrained in this country’s society and political ethos. Nonetheless, Hun Sen is considered one of the primary architects of peace in Cambodia.
The national political situation in Cambodia can be steady if the government remains in power. It should also implement policies that can result to authentic economic progress and attract overseas investments for various industries. Efficiency of government can reduce political hazards. So far, this nation has moved forward in fostering democratic institutions and systems. There are fewer risks of violence related to elections in Cambodia for the last 30 years. In fact, Cambodia seems to surpass other Asian countries in this aspect including Thailand.
The government needs to convey a true image of the country’s political system to its Asian neighbors, media as well as international observers. Fortunately, there has been an improvement notwithstanding negative claims by government critics. At present, tourism, direct investments and exports have grown considerably. Many foreigners have become accustomed to the real situation in Cambodia.
Cambodia is enjoying development even if the pace is quite sluggish. Last year, real growth reached seven percent. Projection for economic advancement in 2016 is projected at 3.9 percent even as it has to face tough competition in garment exports, feeble growth in the agricultural industry and robust tourism sector.
Poverty remains a big problem although this has dropped to a great extent. In 2012, the rate of destitution was 17.7 percent with nearly 3 million classified as poor and roughly 8.2 million just above the poverty line. Around 90 percent of these Cambodian citizens lived in rural areas. Many families that barely escaped misery did so only by a minimal margin. Human development is another issue specifically in education and health. More or less 42 percent of kids below five years are half-starved and undersized. Over ½ of Cambodians do not even have access to proper sanitation and toilets.
On the other hand, the Cambodian government made significant gains in child care, maternal wellbeing and primary education initiatives in the countryside. Mortality rate for every 100, 000 new born babies declined from 472 in 2005 to only 170 last year. Death rates for children below five years went down from 124/1, 000 in 1998 dropped to 35/1, 000 in 2014. Meanwhile, admission rate for primary schools increased from 81 percent in 2001 to 94.3 percent two years ago. Cambodia was also successful in the prevention and treatment of HV and AIDS. Almost 90 percent of AIDS patients were given access to anti-retroviral treatment as of 2011. So far, this is the highest coverage rate among developing nations.
All in all, Phnom Penh still has to cope with numerous concerns such as good governance, proper management of natural resources and agricultural lands, and sustainability of the environment. Corruption is rampant and hinders growth. Anemic public service is also a big problem. Perhaps, the government should concentrate on agriculture and tourism as powerful engines of progress. These can support poverty alleviation programs and spread out development in the manufacturing sector particularly the garment business.
Asian Development Growth Predictions
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) projected a stable step-up in Cambodia’s economic growth which is 7.3 percent this year and 7.5 percent in 2016. This is based on enhanced performance in trade along with a moderate political environment. ADB’s Outlook for 2015 indicates the nation surpassing many countries in Asia and rising from a slight decline to a seven percent GDP growth in 2014.
According to the ADB, this can be attributed to political turbulence and labor unrest during the last three years which undermined investor confidence and slowed down tourist arrivals. The two other reasons are floods and famines which stunted agriculture. Senior economists from the Bank believe the local economy will be revitalized due to political harmony, satisfied garment workers and recuperating international economy.
Officials in government and global financial institutions are looking forward to a positive trade performance between Cambodia, the United States, European Union, and Thailand as well as mitigation of tensions in the political scene. The ADB is convinces reduced cost of fuel and growing household disposable income will add to upbeat developments. Top officials of the ADB predict Cambodia will also reap gains from domestic demand, lower fiscal deficit, replenishment of bank deposits, and improving trade arrears. Agricultural output is also expected to pick up reasonably.
Cambodia assumes a major role in promoting the Southeast Asian region. The Hun Sen regime also envisions creating stronger collaboration with the United Nations and ASEAN to protect its people from genocide and other crimes versus humanity.