ADB's Work in Cambodia
Supporting One of Asia's Fastest-Growing Economies
Cambodia has developed from one of the poorest countries in Asia to one of the fastest-growing economies, and it has made significant progress in the area of human development. ADB has been there every step of the way.
Phnom Penh today has some of the best drinking water anywhere in Southeast Asia.
This is in large part due to the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, which was strengthened as part the ADB-funded Phnom Penh Water Supply and Drainage Project. At project completion in 2003, the number of people with access to clean affordable water in the city had doubled to nearly 1 million—almost the entire population of the city—in large part due to the project.
Helping clean up Phnom Penh’s water supply was one of many highlights of the history of the partnership between ADB and Cambodia. Cambodia was a founding member of ADB in 1966.
"We thank ADB for the assistance so far extended to our country which considerably contributed to our durable economic growth and sustained development in Cambodia and look forward to an even stronger partnership with ADB in achieving our country’s development goals, as well as building the region with vibrant and sustainable development in the coming years."
By the late 1970s, conflict had rendered almost all of Cambodia’s roads, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, hospitals, housing, and offices unusable or in need of repair. By 1979, there was no functioning administration, no currency, no electricity, no police force, and no transport services. To get from one part of the country to another, people had to walk. Rice production was only a fraction of prewar levels, and across the country many people were hungry.
During the 1980s, schools and hospitals reopened, roads and buildings were repaired, and government was reestablished. Cambodia, however, had little financial support for the enormous task of rebuilding infrastructure.
When ADB re-engaged with Cambodia in the early 1990s, the country had already made a remarkable recovery from years of war and isolation, but there was still much rebuilding to do.
In November 1992, barely a year after the Paris Peace Agreement was signed, and even before elections had been held and a new government formed, ADB provided Cambodia with a loan of $67.7 million to rehabilitate critical infrastructure in transport, power, agriculture, and education.
Since then, ADB assistance ramped up dramatically. This has included the improvement of cross-border facilities in Cambodia to support transport and trade as part of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program. This program has invested in roads and bridges, as well as improved customs procedures and border regulations.
As part of the program, the 2002 Mekong Tourism Development Project enabled Siem Reap in Cambodia to replace its antiquated water system with new sewers, drainage canals, and stormwater chambers. This reduced the risk of waterborne diseases for a population of 120,000 and ended serious flooding. It also made the city more welcoming to the thousands of tourists who visit the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex.
As part of the same project, the 6.3-kilometer road linking Phnom Penh to Cambodia’s Genocide Memorial was upgraded. This helped raise the number of visitors to the area by nearly tenfold, from 25,000 in 2002 to 241,000 in 2010. The project created jobs, increased incomes, and improved the standard of living of many people in the area.
ADB has also supported the government’s goal of improving skills training. The Enhancing Education Quality Project, launched in 2007, improved the skills of teachers and helped the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport operate more effectively. As a result of the project, more students passed their classes and graduated with an improved and more valuable set of skills.
Between 2010 and 2014, ADB and Cambodia partnered to provide almost 50,000 households with new or improved sanitation, and built or upgraded 330 kilometers of new or upgraded power transmission lines, connecting 40,000 rural households to lower-priced electricity. More than 600 kilometers of roads were also built or upgraded, and more than 205,000 secondary school students—nearly half of them female—benefited from new or improved educational facilities.
Today, Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, and it has worked to spread that prosperity across society. Cambodia’s per capita gross domestic product increased from $144 to $1,159 since 1967. ADB, as Cambodia’s largest multilateral development partner, has stood with the country every step of the way in this progress.
“We thank ADB for the assistance so far extended to our country, which considerably contributed to our durable economic growth and sustained development in Cambodia, and look forward to an even stronger partnership with ADB in achieving our country’s development goals, as well as building the region with vibrant and sustainable development in the coming years,” says Vongsey Vissoth, secretary of state, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Government of Cambodia.
This article was originally published in a special edition of Together We Deliver, which tells 50 stories highlighting the importance of good partnerships in Asia and the Pacific in meeting the complex development challenges of this dynamic region.