How fast is the Cambodian economy growing?

A recent report in the Chinese newspaper: Global Times reports that Cambodia is experiencing good economic growth but a higher than expected inflation rate.

Cambodia’s inflation rate has accelerated to 2.9 percent in the first six months of the year, up from 1.8 percent over the same period last year, according to a report of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) on Wednesday.

“The rate, below 3 percent, is low and can be controllable,” Chea Chanto, NBC’s governor, said in the report.

He said Cambodian riel had appreciated about 0.7 percent against US dollar during the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.

The country’s gross foreign reserves have continued their steady rise to 4 billion US dollars by June this year, up 13 percent compared with June last year, he said, adding that the amount can ensure four months of prospective imports.

The governor projected that the economy would grow by 7.6 percent in 2013, driven by strong growth of garment exports, agriculture, tourism and construction, and the inflation was expected at a manageable level of 5 percent this year.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted in April that Cambodia’s economy would grow at a rate of 6.7 percent and inflation at 4.6 percent this year.

My comment. The economic growth of Cambodia looks impressive but it comes at some social costs including an increasing rich/poor gap, land grabs (sugar and palm oil plantations that usurp farmers) and – the plague of Cambodia – corruption. One feature of recent development has been the shift away from western investment, which tends to come with strings (in the name of human rights objectives) and toward Chinese investment which seldom comes with such strings.

Even when there are strings, these may be deliberately ignored (Rubber Company Up to Old Tricks – today’s Phnom Penh Post)

This could be one reason why the existing Government lost seats in the most recent elections, and why the Government engaged in populist moves (raising the minimum salary of garment workers) prior to the elections. The simmering issue: growth is not benefiting Cambodians equally – while inflation hurts the poorest farmers the hardest.

Today in Phnom Penh there has been a Garment Workers protest which has ended with an innocent bystander shot dead.

If you wish to read more about social justice in Cambodia, check out the book Cambodia’s Curse by top journalist Joel Brinkley.

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