Cambodia’s Economy Ranked as PM Visits World Economic Forum in Davos

While Prime Minister Hun Sen was busy peddling his country’s investment potential to European businesspeople on his way to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this week, two new reports left a mixed impression of Cambodia’s place on the global economic stage.

While the country shows relative prowess for growth that broadens economic opportunity, it continues to prove inept at competing in a skills-based global economy, according to two reports released on Monday.

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Laborers work at a construction site in Phnom Penh last year. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)

Cambodia is among a group of low-income countries that score low when ranked based on GDP per capita, but “have done a relatively good job of making their growth processes more inclusive,” a report from the forum says.

The Inclusive Growth and Development Report measures economic inclusivity, or how well an economy’s overall growth translates into the economic results that societies seek, such as higher standards of living.

Cambodia ranked 43 out of 78 developing economies. It scored in the top 20 percent of those economies for employment, but in the bottom 20 percent for GDP per capita and labor productivity.

Jayant Menon, lead economist for the Asian Development Bank in Cambodia, said unemployment and underemployment were falling as a result of economic growth and that new manufacturing jobs, especially in urban special economic zones, were providing higher incomes than agricultural work in rural provinces.

“With this shift from agriculture to manufacturing…that involves a movement into higher productivity activities,” he said.

In a separate report, which scored nations on talent indicators such as education levels, vocational and technical skills, and the use of technology and social networks, Cambodia ranked 108 out of 118 countries overall, and last of 13 nations in its region.

According to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, from international business school Instead, the country ranked last in high-level skills and nearly last in formal education, corruption, tolerance of immigrants, and availability of scientists and engineers.

On Monday, Mr. Hun Sen met with Swiss businesspeople in Zurich, urging them to invest in Cambodia and inviting them to attend the next World Economic Forum on Asean, which will be held in Cambodia in May.

“Many Swiss investors want to do business in Cambodia because they have confidence and clearly see political stability and development, notably Cambodia’s current economic potential,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

The forum began on Tuesday in Davos and ends on Friday. Mr. Hun Sen is scheduled to participate in a panel on investment in sustainable infrastructure today and another on the Asean economic community on Friday.

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