Against this backdrop, the progress that has been made since then is all the more remarkable. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia was achieving high rates of economic growth, and efforts to reduce child and maternal mortality, tackle HIV and AIDS, and clear landmines had been crowned with success.
During the pandemic, the country succeeded in increasing its COVID-19 PCR test capacity from one laboratory to 20 public laboratories in a relatively short period of time. Cambodia also prioritised its vaccination campaign, with a mixture of donor-financed vaccine supplies and its own purchases. As a result, 99 per cent of the adult population and over 95 per cent of 6- to 17-year-olds received at least two COVID-19 vaccinations within the first year.
Income is unevenly distributed
In 2003, half the population was still living below the national poverty line, but by 2020, according to the World Bank, that figure had fallen to just 18 per cent. However, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is warning of an increase in poverty of up to eight per cent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government provided substantial financial support for vulnerable people and those living in poverty in order to lessen the impact of the pandemic.
The main beneficiaries of the economic development that has been achieved are the urban elite and the still very small middle class. More than 90 per cent of the poor population lives in rural areas.
Cambodia has a young population: around 30 per cent of the population are under the age of 15. The current Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Cambodia 146th out of 191 countries.