Economy and energy
The long civil war that has marked Cambodian history has heavily compromised the economic structure of the country, especially impeding the adequate development of infrastructures and human capital. While it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, its economy is one of the most dynamic in the region.
Agriculture still represents a fundamental part of the production structure (29.8% of GDP). The main crop is rice. However, the industry is growing rapidly, particularly in the textile and footwear sectors, which are export-oriented and enjoy huge investments from abroad, which have increased in recent years. Services account for 42.9% of GDP: the most developed sectors are financial services and tourism; in particular the latter is experiencing a strong expansion in recent years.
Cambodian exports are mainly directed to the United States, while imports largely come from regional neighbors, mainly Thailand, China and Vietnam. The trade balance is in deficit, despite the strength of some sectors intensely exported, as in the case of textiles which make up about 70% of total exports. The global nature of the country’s customers – in the last year about 55% of exports was channeled to the USA, United Kingdom, Germany and Canada – and the dependence on textiles led to the collapse of GDP.in 2009. However, the economy recovered quickly and it is estimated that the country could grow at a rate of 7.4% over the next five years after the 7.2% recorded in 2014. In addition to textiles, the country exports rubber and timber, while it depends on imports mainly for oil and construction materials.
According to indexdotcom, Cambodia does not have hydrocarbons, but the forests are a great resource for the country. Energy derives largely from biomass (71%) and oil (25.1%). While limiting dependence on imports, this leads to greater deforestation, also aggravated by agricultural expansion. It should be emphasized, however, that in Cambodia the percentage (15.6%) of new, environmentally sustainable biomasses is among the highest in the world. However, much remains to be done with regard to access to electricity, currently only guaranteed to just over a quarter of the population.
Defense and security
In 2006, the Cambodian parliament adopted a law requiring men aged 18 to 30 to register with the army and, if selected, to perform military service for 18 months. The law was criticized for running counter to international efforts to reduce the military sector. At the same time, there is pressure for Cambodia to continue to decrease military spending (to 3% in the 1990s and then slowly reduced to today’s 1.65% of GDP) in favor of contributions to be allocated to education and health.
From a domestic security perspective, the country has recently made some progress in clearing anti-personnel mines dating back to the civil war. The number of accidents has in fact dropped from 4320 in 1996 to 211 in 2011 and about half of the contaminated areas are now cleared.
In the international field, Cambodia participates in the Minusma missions in Mali, Unifil in Lebanon and Unmiss in South Sudan, respectively with 306, 184 and 145 effective.
Re Norodom Sihanouk
Cambodian history has been marked for decades by the figure of Norodom Sihanouk, who died in October 2012. He succeeded his grandfather on the throne in 1941 with the support of the French government of Vichy (at the time Cambodia was part of French Indochina), collaborated with the Japanese occupiers. Remaining on the throne even after the return of the French, Sihanouk led the country in the difficult post-colonial transition, preventing the conflict that broke out in neighboring Vietnam from destabilizing Cambodia as well. Between ups and downs and momentary exiles abroad, Sihanouk remained in office even during the Khmer Rouge regime, despite suffering a period of imprisonment. Again in exile after the Vietnamese invasion he led the nationalist opposition, and after the Soviet collapse he returned to Cambodia, regaining the crown for over a decade.