The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said Tuesday that Cambodia needs to invest more in education and physical infrastructure in order to lay the foundation for future success.
"Laying the foundation for future success must begin with education. As you all know so well, education is the stepping stone to a better world," she said during a lecture to about 300 students at the Royal School of Administration here.
"Through education, we take a candle and we enlighten the entire country, the entire region, and the entire world."
Lagarde said Cambodia was at the cusp of a great change--moving from agriculture to industry, from farm to city.
"Cambodia is a youthful country with a third of the population under the age of 14. It is the young people who must manage this change, and they must be given the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge they need," she said.
While there has been good progress, Cambodia is still being held back by low levels of education and by inadequate skills, she said, noting that spending on education is still only 2.5 percent, or 335 million U.S. dollars, of the GDP.
"Every young person in Cambodia deserves the chance to achieve their true potential--and in turn, the potential of the economy," she said.
However, investing in the future did not end with education, she said, stressing that Cambodia needed investment in infrastructure--especially in power facilities, roads, and bridges.
"It needs greater economic diversification, including through rural development and stronger institutions and governance," she said. "Also, it needs a better business climate, based on impartiality and predictability."
Meanwhile, Lagarde hailed the Southeast Asian nation for strong economic growth of around 8 percent over the past decade and said the IMF predicted that the country's growth was expected around 7 percent this year and next.
"Cambodia's performance is driven by its openness to the world, " she said, noting that the country has seen strong increases in garment exports, foreign direct investment, and tourism.
Lagarde arrived here on Sunday evening for a two-day visit. Cambodia was her first leg of a tour to three Asian nations, which will also take her to South Korea and Myanmar, according to an IMF press release.
During in Cambodia, she had met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth, think-tank representatives, women leaders, and business people as well as civil society organization representatives.