Cambodia has exceeded the Millennium Development Goal poverty target and is one of the best performers in poverty reduction worldwide, according to a new World Bank Poverty Assessment Report released here Thursday.
"The poverty rate more than halved, from 53 percent, or 6.9 million people, in 2004 to 20.5 percent, or 3 million people in 2011," the report said. "Today, approximately two out of 10 Cambodians are poor, compared with five out of 10 in 2004."
According to the report, increased rice prices and increased rice production greatly contributed to poverty reduction, along with greater road access for farmers to markets, better access to market information through mobile phones, improved irrigation, and a liberal undistorted agricultural market.
"This is good news for Cambodia. The pace of poverty reduction surpassed expectations," said Alassane Sow, the World Bank's Country Manager for Cambodia.
"When a similar poverty assessment was undertaken in 2006, the aspirational goal was for Cambodia to halve poverty by 2015. Cambodia already reached that goal in 2011."
However, the report finds that Cambodia has about 8.1 million " near-poor" people, those who live on less than 2.30 U.S. dollars per day per person. While they may have escaped poverty, they remain vulnerable to even the slightest economic shocks.
"Despite impressive reduction in poverty, these hard won gains are fragile. Many people who have escaped poverty are still at high risk of falling back into poverty," said Neak Samsen, Poverty Analyst of the World Bank in Cambodia and the co-author of the Poverty Assessment Report.
"For example, the loss of just 1,200 riel per day in income ( about 30 U.S. cents) would throw an estimated three million Cambodians back into poverty, doubling the poverty rate to 40 percent."
The report also recommended policies and programs so as to further reduce poverty and vulnerability in the country. The recommendations included the improvement and upgrade of basic rural infrastructure such as roads, irrigation schemes, electricity supplies, and water and sanitation.
Also, it is essential to support children in rural areas to start school at a younger age and broaden access to education among minority communities, it said, adding that increasing the coverage of free health services is also key to reduce poverty.
Speaking at the launching of the report, Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon attributed the success in poverty reduction to the wise leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen and had optimism that the poverty rate would further drop in coming years.
"We might come up with different views on some directions of Cambodia's socio-economic development, but I firmly believe that we all fundamentally agree that the success of Cambodia's next stage of poverty reduction will be determined by continuing high levels of inclusive growth based on economic diversification and increased productivity," he said.
Ulrich Zachau, World Bank Country Director Manager for Cambodia and Southeast Asia, said reducing poverty further and helping families who have just escaped poverty to stay out of poverty is possible.
"The World Bank is a partner with Cambodia in its efforts to reduce poverty and promote equitable growth and development that benefits all Cambodians," he said.