Alleviation of poverty is the most important in the world. Especially, in developing countries include Cambodia.
In Cambodia, the population living under the poverty line of US$1.25 is defined as the poor. As of 2007, about 30.1% 1 of Cambodians live below the national poverty line indicating that at least one in five Cambodians are still living in deprivation. They essentially lack the sufficient resources to meet their daily needs. Cambodia’s long history of violence and conflicts both internally and externally has contributed to the current poverty situation. Most notably in Cambodia’s troubled history was the Khmer Rouge regime and a period of occupation under Vietnam’s communist leaders from 1980 to 1989. As such, it was not until recently did the political situation in Cambodia settled down. Since then, its economy has been growing from strength to strength, driven by the expansion in the garment, construction, tourism and agricultural sector.
However, a good proportion of Cambodians that are living in the rural areas is not experiencing the prosperities especially in the plateau and mountainous region where more than 80.5% of the population reside. 2 They are mainly employed in the agricultural sector and many small-scale farmers practice agriculture at subsistence level, using traditional methods that are low in productivity. Two-thirds of the country’s 1.6 million rural households face seasonal food shortages each year. Rice alone accounts for as much as 30 percent of household expenditures.
The rural citizens are the people who have the least access to education, health, and other public services because of poor infrastructures and lack of government investment in areas where it matters most. In 2007, education expenditure only accounted for 1.6% of Cambodia’s total GDP putting it amongst the ranks of other poorer nations.3 As a result, only 78% of adults above the age of 15 are literate.
Rampant corruption amongst the political elites and government bureaucrats is a key factor that has been hindering improvements in poverty levels. In 2010, Cambodia was ranked 154th out of 178 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) with a given score of 2.1 out of 10 indicating just how perverse corruption is at every level of the Cambodian society. 4 Yet, this is already considered an improvement from previous years. This is a deterrent for foreign investments and foreign aids that are very much needed for Cambodia to sustain its economic growth and alleviate the poor out of poverty.
Even though growth in GDP per capita in the past decade has led to decreasing poverty rates, it is not happening at a rate that equals to economic growth rates. Additionally, the economic growth is increasing the gap in inequality between the very poor and the rich.