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Overview

  • Over the past two decades, Cambodia has undergone a significant transition, reaching lower middle-income status in 2015 and aspiring to attain upper middle-income status by 2030. Driven by garment exports and tourism, Cambodia’s economy has sustained an average real growth rate of 7.7 percent between 1998 and 2019, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

    The global shock triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted Cambodia’s economy in 2020 at a time when Cambodia also faces the partial suspension of preferential access to the EU market under the “Everything but Arms” initiative. The outbreak caused sharp deceleration in most of Cambodia’s main engines of growth—tourism, manufacturing exports, and construction—which together accounted for more than 70 percent of the country’s growth in 2019 and almost 40 percent of paid employment. The economy in 2020 registered negative growth of -3.1 percent, the sharpest decline in Cambodia’s recent history. Cambodia’s economy is expected to start recovering this year, growing at 4 percent, helped by an improving external environment and unprecedent government support. The COVID-19 outbreak and slow recovery in global economic activity, alongside prolonged financial market turmoil, poses risks to Cambodia’s growth outlook. 

    According to official estimates, the poverty rate in 2014 was 13.5 percent compared to 47.8 percent in 2007. About 90 percent of the poor live in the countryside. While Cambodia achieved in 2009 the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty, the vast majority of families who escaped poverty did so by a small margin. Around 4.5 million people remain near-poor and vulnerable to falling back into poverty when exposed to economic and other external shocks. Poverty has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 710,000 households (2.8 million people) received cash transfers during the COVID-19 in January 2021, while only 560,000 households (2.3 million people) were eligible in early June 2020. This implies that at least 150,000 households (0.5 million people) have been identified as newly poor between June 2020 and January 2021.

    To monitor the household-level impacts of COVID-19 in Cambodia, the World Bank and the National Institute of Statistics designed and are conducting high-frequency household phone surveys. The fourth round of surveys completed in December 2020 and January 2021, showed that 72 percent of respondents were employed, reaching similar levels as in May and August 2020 but remaining below its pre-pandemic level when 82 percent of respondents were working. The December 2020 survey also showed that 50 percent of households reported a decline in household income relative to the previous round.

    Health and education, especially quality and equitable access, remain important challenges and development priorities.

    Cambodia has made considerable strides in improving maternal and child health, early childhood development, and primary education in rural areas. The maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births decreased from 472 in 2005 to 170 in 2014; the under-five mortality rate decreased from 83 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 35 per 1,000 live births in 2014; and infant mortality rate decreased from 66 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 28 per 1,000 live births in 2014. Despite the progress in health and education outcomes, human capital indicators lag behind lower middle-income countries. A child born in Cambodia today will be only 49 percent as productive when grown as she could be if she enjoyed full quality education, good health, and proper nutrition during childhood. An estimated 1 in 3 children under the age of five suffer from stunting and only 36 percent of children between three and five years old are enrolled in early education. While net enrollment in primary education increased from 82 percent in 1997 to 97 percent in 2020, lower secondary completion rates, are at 45 percent in 2019, which is significantly lower than the average for lower middle-income countries. As of 2017, 21 percent of Cambodia’s population (3.4 million people) did not have access to improved water, and 34 percent (5.4 million people) did not have access to improved sanitation.

    Key reforms are needed for Cambodia to sustain pro-poor growth, foster competitiveness, sustainably manage natural resource wealth, and improve access to and quality of and equitable access to public services. Cambodia continues to have a serious infrastructure gap and would benefit from greater connectivity and investments in rural and urban infrastructure. Further diversification of the economy will require fostering entrepreneurship, expanding the use of technology and building new skills to address emerging labor market needs. Accountable and responsive public institutions will also be critical to meeting the evolving needs of citizens and the private sector.  And quality of human capital will be of utmost importance to achieve Cambodia’s ambitious goal of reaching middle-income status by 2030.

    Last Updated: Apr 14, 2021

  • The World Bank’s engagement in Cambodia focuses on its mandate to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity by investing in human capital, tackling rural poverty, building basic infrastructure, and empowering communities.

    Cambodia received its first International Development Association (IDA) credit from the World Bank in 1993. Following decades of conflict, the World Bank’s priority areas were to support the reconstruction of social and economic institutions and the development of physical infrastructure. In subsequent partnership programs, increasing focus has been placed on governance reforms, macroeconomic stability and sustainable economic growth, livelihoods support, and improving and expanding health and education services. Across the program, the Bank supports citizens’ engagement and strengthen governance, particularly to enhance government transparency and accountability and improve public service delivery.

    Following the Cambodia Country Engagement Note, which was discussed  by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors in May 2016, the World Bank Group conducted a Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) to identify challenges and priority development areas to achieve strong, inclusive and sustainable growth, and shared prosperity in Cambodia.

    Drawing from the analysis and broad consultations with civil society, academia, and development partners, the SCD identified three pathways for development:

    • Enhancing export competitiveness and economic diversification to sustain strong growth and create jobs
    • Building human assets to facilitate economic mobility and shared prosperity
    • Ensuring a more sustainable growth pattern by investing in natural capital, climate resilience, and sustainable urban development

    The World Bank Group’s new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Cambodia for FY19 – 23 was discussed by the Board on May 30, 2019. This five-year strategy is closely aligned with the fourth phase of Cambodia’s Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency and the National Strategic Development Plan 2019-2023. The CPF has three focus areas: (i) promote state efficiency and boost private sector development; (ii) foster human development; and (iii) improve agricultural productivity and the sustainable use of natural resources. A critical cross-cutting theme, which underpins reforms in all three focus areas, is that of governance, institutions and citizen engagement – is embedded in all World Bank Group-financed activities.

    The Cambodia CPF three focus areas are underpinned by specific objectives:

    The first focus area—promoting state efficiency and boosting private sector development—includes three objectives:

    • Enhancing financial sector development and fostering private enterprises;
    • Strengthening public sector accountability and public financial management; and
    • Expanding and improving sustainable infrastructure.

    The second focus area—fostering human development—includes two objectives:

    • Enhancing quality of education and alignment with labor demands; and
    • Expanding access to quality early childhood services, along with health care and nutrition services.

    The third focus area—improving agricultural productivity and strengthening the sustainable use of natural resources—includes two objectives:

    • Strengthening management of water and land resources; and
    • Improving agricultural productivity and diversification.

    The World Bank supports these focus areas through investment projects in education, health and nutrition, roads, improved livelihoods, agriculture diversification, land allocation for social and economic development, water supply and sanitation, sustainable landscape and water resource management, disaster risk management, and community-level service delivery. Cambodia also benefits from co-financing grant trust fund to support Cambodia portfolio. In support Cambodia’s efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and to strengthen the country’s economy for recovery and the future resilience, the Bank recently approved the COVID-19 Emergency Response Project ($20 million), the additional financing ($14 million) to the Health Equity and Quality Improvement project, and Strengthening Pre-service Education System for Health Professionals project to build a resilient health service delivery system in Cambodia.

    Further, the Bank made adjustment of active portfolio to ongoing projects to be relevant in responding to the crisis. For example, the Higher Education Improvement project re-allocated $5 million to support activities on EdTech e-learning to help students learn from home (nearly 3 million pupils beneficiaries), and the Cambodia Agriculture Sector Diversification project financed $10 million activities to address food security for vulnerable populations. The Livelihood Enhancement and Association of the Poor project continued to use the skills development platform to scale up the labor component. The Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement project will install water connections in hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and provided hand washing stations to households in low-income communities.

    The knowledge agenda is a significant part of the World Bank’s engagement in Cambodia. Programmatic Advisory Services and Analytics (PASA) on Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship, Economic Diversification, Digital Development,  Social Accountability, Public Sector Performance, Poverty Assessment, Equitable Access to Quality Health and Nutrition services, Environmental Sustainability and Resilience, and Social Protection & Jobs continue to strengthen the understanding of development challenges Cambodia faces and foster dialogue on development policy issues with a broad range of stakeholders.

    Last Updated: Apr 14, 2021

  • The COVID-19 Emergency Response project supported enhancing COVID-19 testing capacity at one national, two regional, and 12 provincial laboratories.  Testing capacity has increased from 1,500 tests to 6,000 tests per day. The medical equipment from the project has been distributed to support the development and expansion of COVID-19 treatment at one national hospital, 4 national treatment centers, and all 25 provincial hospitals. Infection prevention and control, including medical waste management, was enhanced through the provision of environmentally friendly technology, equipment, and supplies, and the equipment has been provided for the establishment of the Emergency Operation Centers in all provincial health department offices.

    The Health Equity and Quality Improvement Project (H-EQIP) is working to improve the equity and quality of health care services throughout Cambodia. It is the fourth in a series of World Bank-supported health projects that have helped to expand the health facility network, with medical and laboratory equipment and equity and financial protection for the poor.  H-EQIP strengthened non-communicable disease services and government capacity, enhancing quality of care, infection prevention and control, and sanitation and water quality in health facilities. As of September 2020, almost 50,000 women have been screened for cervical cancer screening.

    The Health Equity Fund (HEF) system, which part of H-EQIP, as of 2020, co-financed free access to almost 3.3 million cases, including 3 million outpatient visits, 259,000 hospital admissions, and 28,000 births per year for the poorest people in Cambodia, nationwide and across all public health facilities in the country. Payments for these services, as well as performance-based grants granted for improving quality of healthcare service delivery, are disbursed electronically and in a timely manner into health facilities’ bank accounts. This has changed the empowerment and accountability paradigm, where the additional resources facilitated facility-level decision-making. The HEF system has also ensured vital funding for maintaining equipment and infrastructure and for dealing with unexpected shortages of drugs and consumables. 

    The Cambodia Nutrition Project is to improve utilization and quality of priority maternal and child health and nutrition services for targeted groups in Cambodia. The project has two components to strengthen the delivery of priority health services and stimulate demand and accountability at the community level. In 2019, there were 38, 885 children under 12 months of age in target areas receiving DPT-HelB-Hib 3.

    The World Bank is currently engaged in two  education sector projects in Cambodia. The Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP) aims to improve secondary education quality by strengthening school-based management; upgrading the qualification of lower secondary school teachers, school leaders, and educational staff.  The project aims to improve school facilities through the construction and rehabilitation of 100 existing schools, the construction of 30 new schools, and equipping laboratory facilities at 100 targeted schools. Over the past three and a half years, the project has benefitted 25,865 students, teachers, and educational staff at national and sub-national levels. 

    The ongoing Higher Education Improvement Project (HEIP) works to improve the quality of teaching and learning in five public higher education institutions by improving the curriculum, teaching methods, staff qualifications, learning facilities, and promoting the linkages with industry to ensure consistency with the job market. The project also provides grants to promote the development and implementation of research projects in STEM and agriculture. The project has invested $5 million in e-learning so that nearly 3 million pre-school, primary, and secondary school pupils can learn from home while schools are closed. The support mainly helped the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports  develop teaching videos to be broadcast on its social media channels and TV, develop student worksheets for the students to work with their textbooks, and provide school grants to all the primary and secondary schools to print and copy the student worksheets for poor students.

    The Implementation of Social Accountability Framework (ISAF) phase II (2019-2023) aims to achieve the full coverage in 203 District/Municipality/Khan (DMK) of 25 capital/provinces, 1,646 communes/sangkats, 7,189 primary schools, and 1,197 health centers. The ISAFII commits to expand to other services including DMK administrative, water supply and sanitation, and some services when more functions transferred to Sub-National Admirations (SNAs).

    The World Bank and other development partners are supporting World Vision- demand-side on engaging citizens to improve service delivery through social accountability and National Committee for Democratic Development Secretariat (NCDDS)- supply-side on integrating of social accountability into national and subnational system to improve local service delivery through enhanced accountability of local government, particularly the D/M, commune/sangkat councils, health centers, and primary schools. To date, ISAF covers 24 capital/provinces, 170 districts and 1,398 commune/sangkat across the country. ISAF covers 1,095 health centers and 6,190 primary schools. ISAF also recruits thousands of Community Accountability Facilitators to help mobilize their communities to receive information on national standard of services, monitor quality of services available locally, agree on a Joint Accountability Action Plan (JAAP), prioritize a short list of actions to address the issues identified, and monitor the implementation of JAAP. The ISAF mobile app are established and available for both Android and IOS operation system in smart phones to better enhance citizen engagement, particularly during COVID-19 pandemic.

    Within another concrete intervention, the Livelihood Enhancement and Association of the Poor 2017-2022 (LEAP) is being implemented to improve livelihoods for rural and urban poor and vulnerable households in 47 communes/sangkats of 9 districts at Siem Reap province and 13 sangkats of 11 khan in Phnom Penh capital. The LEAP’s objective is to improve access of poor and vulnerable households in selected communities to financial services, opportunities for generating income, develop small scale infrastructure and to provide immediate and effective response in case of an eligible crisis or emergency. The focus is on (a) creating and strengthening self-managed community institutions of poor (b) providing them with access to finance (c) linking them to markets and key value chains and value addition and higher price (d) enhancing skills and employment opportunities of rural and urban poor, and (e) improving basic services and community infrastructure of rural and urban poor. Approximately, 20,000 ID poor and vulnerable households in the target communes/sangkats have received benefits from the project interventions, of whom 51percent are female beneficiaries. Till date, total of 778 self-help groups and 146 producer groups have been established, approximately nearly 90 percent are females for enhancing their access to finance, inter-lending, agriculture skills, market linkages and value addition. Total of 586 students enrolled for skill training, 308 students at Siem Reap and 278 students at Phnom Penh. Among 212 graduated students, 153 are employed. The scale of the skills development activities will be adjusted downwards, and the relevance of specific skills training need to be revalidated to adapt the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. In combination of the interventions, the LEAP has so far provided community economic infrastructures. Total of 68 infrastructures, 39 in Siem Reap and 29 in Phnom Penh have been improved, for example, community roads, bridges, ponds, canals, market shelters, solar LED power street lighting, and pipe drainage system.

    In the water supply and sanitation sector, the Bank-financed Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project has supported investment in water supply in lagging areas in five provinces and in improving wastewater collection and management in Siem Reap city. During the early stage of implementation, about 200 connections have been completed in the remove province Mondulkiri.

    In the water resources management sector, the World Bank-supported Mekong Integrated Water Resource Management Project has supported the government in establishing the key foundation for effective water resources and fishery management. Through Fishery Administration, the project established 70 community fisheries with long-term community fishery management plans in the Northeast of Cambodia. All the supported community fisheries were equipped with 100 engine boats and related equipment to enable them to carry out patrols in fishery conservation zones. With approximately 50 river guard offices and more than 60 demarcations constructed, the Communities Fisheries have completed facilities and resources to prevent illegal fishing. As a result, the community fisheries have been successful in reducing illegal fishing in their area up to 90 percent compared to the illegal prior to project implementation. In addition, the project provided livelihood grants to more than 500 poor families to help them improve livelihoods activities and increase income sources. Apart from livelihood enhancement activities, the first fish hatchery center is being constructed at the border of Cambodia and Lao PDR. The hatchery center aims to produce and sell fish fingerlings to communities to increase their aquaculture activities.  The facility is also used as a regional fishery research center. The project also established hydrological and meteorological monitoring stations, developed water resource modeling and river basin profiles, and constructed water resources monitoring facilities. Sixty-eight government staff have been trained to use the decision support system tools for planning purposes to inform future water resources investment interventions.

    Over the past 20 years, the World Bank has helped modernize the transport sector in Cambodia. Between 1999 and 2014, the World Bank financed three road projects including the Road Rehabilitation Project (1999-2006), the Provincial and Rural Infrastructure Project (2003-2011), and the Road Asset Management Project (2008-2014), which helped improve and rehabilitate critical road infrastructure across the country.

    More recently, the ongoing Road Asset Management Project II (RAMPII) has been supporting the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) to improve the condition, safety, and climate resilience of over 420 kilometers (km) of  the core national road network – including sections of NR3, NR4, and NR7 – and to introduce a road management system for the core national road network. Performance-based contracting for road construction and maintenance is expanding to promote private sector participation in road maintenance and to optimize maintenance service quality.

    The recently approved Road Connectivity Improvement Project will support the MPWT and the Ministry of Rural Development to improve climate resilient road access to key economic and human development facilities including markets, schools and hospitals and benefit over 2 million people in the project area. The technical assistance grants in the transport sector provide analytical and advisory support to government counterparts on private sector participation in the road sector, climate resilience rural road accessibility, road safety and green mobility solutions.

    In agriculture and infrastructure support, the Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development Project (LASED II) has helped to improve access to agricultural resources, and infrastructure and social services for many citizens in rural communities. Through the project, the government has allocated 17,000 hectares of residential and agriculture farmland to 5,091 landless and land-poor families. So far, 3,362 families received land titles. Beneficiaries have received basic shelter materials and other in-kind assistance, such as six-month food aid, to help with settling-in. The project has completed 345km of roads in its target sites. It also built eight school buildings, 14 teacher houses, five health posts, and eight community centers, which are accessible both to project beneficiaries and to the wider community. The project also provides improved agriculture extension services, enabling beneficiaries to make the best use of the land and engage in agriculture activities and foster more sustainable community development. Access to land for the poor or landless families has been – and continues to be – an important aspect of poverty reduction in Cambodia’s rural areas. The Cambodia Agriculture Sector Diversification Project is to facilitate the development of diversified agriculture value chains in selected geographical areas in Cambodia. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the project has financed $10 million activities to address food security for vulnerable populations.

    The Cambodia Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Management Project aims to improve climate resilient rural road connectivity in select provinces. The project will provide all-season rural roads to 340,000 residents who live within 2 km of the project roads, of which 51 percent are women. In addition, the project will benefit most of the 3.5 million people living in the six targeted provinces as well as other passengers traversing these provinces. The target population will benefit from improved access to schools, health facilities, and economic opportunities through climate-resilient roads. The project will strengthen the financial strategies and instruments developed to improve its resilience to climate and disaster risks.

    The Cambodia Sustainable Landscape and Ecotourism Project is to improve protected areas (PAs) management, and to promote ecotourism opportunities and non-timber forest product (NTFP) value chains in the Cardamom Mountains-Tonle Sap landscape. Good progress has been made on Protected Areas (PA) zoning activities, on the development of a PA law enforcement action plan, and on ecotourism with plans for engaging private ecotourism operators and companies. There have been 128,000 visitors visited the selected community-based ecotourism sites as of August 2020.

    Building on the Bank’s active engagement and support in public financial management (PFM) and public sector strengthening in Cambodia since 2006 beginning with two successive projects and various technical assistance programs and the Public Financial Management Modernization Project (PFMMP) (completed in 2017), currently, the Bank continues to provide support for improving PFM and service delivery through a programmatic technical assistance program funded by Multi-Donor Trust Fund with contributions from the European Union and Australia under the Cambodia Strengthening PFM and Public Sector Performance for Improved Service Delivery Programmatic Advisory Services and Analytics Project (P168407) 2019-2022. The technical assistance program aims to ease institutional bottlenecks in service delivery by focusing not only PFM but also broader public sector reform programs of the government.  It covers four thematic areas: strengthening budgeting, planning and expenditure management; performance systems for enhanced service delivery; supporting innovation, monitoring, and coordination; and just-in-time support. 

    Last Updated: Apr 14, 2021

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LENDING

Cambodia: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments



PHOTO GALLERY

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In Depth

Improving Education Quality

Improving lower secondary education to meet minimum standards is the goal of a World Bank-supported project in Cambodia.

Sewer Networks Improve Families’ Lives

In Cambodia, most domestic wastewater is left untreated with only 11% of households connected to a sewer network. Raising awareness on the importance of wastewater treatment is crucial.

Improving Capacity of Private Water Operators

From March 2018 to June 2019, the Cambodian Water Supply Association and the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft implemented a program to build capacity of 12 private water operators in Cambodia.

Parenting Programs Change Mothers’ Behavior

Mothers in Cambodia have attended a parenting training program to learn how to improve their children's learning, hygiene, nutrition, protection and care.

Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Phnom Penh
Exchange Square Building, No. 19-20, Street 106, Sangkat Wat Phnom, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 23 261300
Fax: + 855 23 261301-2
cambodia@worldbank.org
Washington
1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433 Tel: +1 202-473-4709
eapnews@worldbank.org