ECONOMY: GENERAL INFORMATION
A little more than a decade, from the moment of independence to the involvement in the Viet Nam war, the country’s hope lasted to be able to start the take-off of its economy, traditionally based on pure subsistence agriculture (in particular on rice cultivation). In the context of a particular Cambodian socialism which, without forgetting the national reality, intended to adopt progressive experiences, associating public activity with private one, various important economic interventions were carried out, including the creation of the port of Sihanoukville, on the Gulf of Siam, the expansion of the road and railway communications network, the birth of the first industries, the strengthening of agricultural production to be exported, especially Hevea (or rubber tree), introduced by the French in rational plantations. Subsequently involved, like all of Indochina, in the Viet Nam war, Cambodia is perhaps the country that has suffered most from the long and very hard conflict. In fact, starting from 1970, not only were the modest processes of modernization of economic structures arrested, but every productive apparatus was practically destroyed. When Pol Pot came to power, the economy was in a state of total ruin; but tragically for the country the three years of the new regime were no less disastrous than the previous ones. A radical break with the past characterized the new course of the country’s economic life, based on ideological concepts of total self-sufficiency. Nationalization of all productive sectors and collectivization of agriculture, absolute priority to achieving food self-sufficiency, to be achieved by devoting the entire population to the activity of the fields with real deportations and forced labor (and therefore with the depopulation of the cities, Phnom Penh species); abolition of the same currency replaced with the ancient barter, scarce incentives for industry and almost total suppression of exchanges with abroad were the most salient points of the economic policy established by Pol Pot. Despite the very high human losses (2 or 3 million deaths for a small country of just 8 million residents), it was not even possible to reduce the food deficit; however, the subsequent occupation by the Vietnamese army nullified what had been achieved, albeit at the cost of very hard forced labor (for example water infrastructure, of vital importance for the country). There were colossal territorial displacements of peasants who tried to return to their lands of origin and find their family members, but this in practice led for a long time to the suspension of all agricultural activities. However, a certain normalization finally began to take place, through a partial modernization of agriculture and a resumption of industry. According to allcountrylist, at the end of 1979 about fifty small industrial complexes were already operational; also in 1979 the port of Sihanoukville and the airport of Phnom Penh were reopened to foreign traffic, the postal, telephone and telegraph systems were reactivated, as well as the main railway section, between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville; in March 1980 the coin was introduced. During the 1980s, the pro-Vietnamese government succeeded in provoking a weak recovery, linked above all to Soviet aid. When these subsidies waned, the economy plunged back into a profound crisis: in 1991 income, despite having risen slightly compared to previous years, remained the lowest in the world. In the 1990s the country’s economy was still affected by the long period of civil war and unrest, ASEAN (the Regional Association of South-East Asian Countries) which, signed in 1997 and then frozen, had the definitive go-ahead on April 30, 1999 and, subsequently, entry into the WTO ratified in 2004. International aid constitutes a an important voice in the Cambodian economy as well as funding from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, issued in exchange for the government’s promise to fight corruption, to respect human rights more, to fight against indiscriminate deforestation and to proceed with the reduction of military forces. However, successive governments have struggled to meet these commitments: in 2006 the World Bank once again suspended some projects due to the evident spread of corruption, which also compromises competitiveness and foreign investments. The GNP recorded in 2018 was US $ 22,915 million, while the GDP per capita ratio, among the lowest in the entire continent, amounted to US $ 1059.
ECONOMY: AGRICULTURE, LIVESTOCK AND FISHING
Agriculture, which has always been practiced and exploited in the decades of the last century as a means of achieving food self-sufficiency, remains the country’s traditional resource. The core product is rice, followed by cassava, corn, bananas, sugar cane, soy, coconuts and oranges. The rice fields cover approx. 50% of the arable land; they are found in the flooded areas affected by the Mekong and in general, precisely because the cultivation practice is based on flooding, there is only one annual harvest. In the dry seasons the fields are exploited for other crops. The Hevea (rubber), on the other hand, is grown on the south-eastern basaltic plateaus. Breeding is also not negligible activity, especially that of pigs and cattle, even if poultry farming is of greater importance, seriously compromised in the early years of the century. XXI from the spread of avian flu and fishing, both in the Mekong and in the Tonle Sap. Forest resources are also very exploited; however, given the intensification of this practice, the Cambodian government was forced to impose, from 1 January 1995, a special permit to fell trees, despite the fact that timber represents one of the main items of exports.