major macro economic indicators
|2020||2021||2022 (e)||2023 (f)|
|GDP growth (%)||-3.1||3.0||5.0||5.6|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||2.9||2.9||5.3||2.5|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-3.8||-7.2||-4.2||-4.4|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-12.1||-45.7||-23.8||-17.2|
|Public debt (% GDP)||33.9||35.2||35.5||35.7|
(e): Estimate (f): Forecast
- Vibrant textile industry
- Dynamic (in normal times) tourism sector with strong potential
- Financial support from bilateral and multilateral donors
- Integrated in a regional network (ASEAN)
- Young population (50% of the population under 22)
- High share of agriculture in employment and GDP makes the economy vulnerable to weather conditions
- Dependent on Chinese funding and concessional financing due to weak fiscal resources (high informality)
- Great reliance on garment and tourism sectors
- Underdeveloped electricity and transport networks
- Low-value added garment exports due to a lack of skilled workforce
- Significant governance shortcomings, high levels of corruption
- Poverty rate remains high, low levels of spending on health and education
- Limited capacity of the only international seaport of Sihanoukville
The economic recovery is set to continue
Despite headwinds leading to slower global economic growth, Cambodia continued to recover in 2022 with real GDP exceeding its 2019 level. Still in a gloomy global environment, the Cambodian economy should grow at a slightly faster rate in 2023. Domestic consumption will keep benefitting from the government’s ‘treatment of COVID-19 as endemic’ and international borders reopening as the country started to welcome unvaccinated travellers with no on arrival test requirement in October 2022. Demand for services, including catering and hospitality, will particularly be dynamic. Having said this, tourism (26% of 2019 GDP) will not reach pre-pandemic levels as long as the formerly first source of inbound arrivals, namely China, pursues its strict COVID-19 policy. Household consumption (73% of GDP in 2021) should also be supported by relatively robust remittances (5.6% of GDP in 2019) as most of them are from Thailand, where economic recovery is set to continue in 2023. Continued improvement in the business environment – with the new 2021 Law on Investment and the Anti-Corruption Institution’s 5-year action plan running until 2025 – and recent regional free trade agreements will drive investment. The construction sector (15% GDP in 2019), which has been struggling since the pandemic, could see some relief from a 10-year infrastructure plan announced by the government in 2022. Nevertheless, the economy will be weakened by export growth slowdown, the country being highly dependent on exports of goods and services (65% of GDP in 2021), notably on garments and footwear (45% of total goods exports). Rising recession risks in the U.S. and the EU, which are the top export destinations, would severely drag on overall export performance. As a double whammy, the preponderant textile industry would continue to face still high energy and raw material prices.
After having markedly increased in 2022, inflation is expected to reduce but could remain higher than in past years due to pass-through effects, weighing on private consumption. The economy being highly dollarized, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) may continue to intervene on the market to support the riel.
High private sector indebtedness poses a risk
The public budget balance will remain in deficit with a still expansionary fiscal policy. The 2023 budget will be dedicated to standard of living improvement and society resiliency. While Cambodian public debt is entirely external and denominated in foreign currency, risks remain manageable. Public debt level is moderated, it is mostly composed by medium to long-term maturities and is highly concessional with around 40% of it made of grants. Moreover, the debt is quasi-exclusively subject to fixed interest rates so it would won’t be vulnerable to rising interest rates. More concerns come from private sector indebtedness, which was already high and increased further with the pandemic to reached 174% of GDP at end-2021. With authorities having ended forbearance on restructuring in July 2022, this high indebtedness could pose a threat to financial institutions. NPLs represented 4.5% of GDP as of June 2022.
Although it is expected to narrow with the rebound in tourism, the current account deficit will stay high. The trade balance will remain negative due to export growth slowdown and still high commodity prices impacting the import bill. That being said, project financing, FDI, as well as remittances and external financial aid (for example, ADB granted USD 1.2 billion of concessional lending and USD 43.9 million in grants over 2022-2025) should cover the deficit. Despite a slight decline in capital inflows and the NBC’s intervention on the foreign exchange market to stabilize the riel, FX reserves remain adequate (about 7 months of imports in June 2022).
Political continuity expected in the run-up to the general elections
The former military commander of the Khmer Rouge and current Prime Minister Hun Sen has led the country for over 35 years. His right-wing conservative Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has all the seats in the National Assembly (NA) and secured around 80% of local council seats in the 2022 commune elections. CPP is therefore expected to conserve a large majority after the next general elections to be held in July 2023. Although Hu Sen's next term is expected to be his last, he is likely to retain broad control over the country's political life. After new constitutional amendments allowing the party with a majority of seats in the NA to directly designate a PM came into law in 2022, Hu Sen stated he would remain President of the CPP after he leaves the head of state. This would make it even easier for Hu Sen to bring his son to power.
Relations with Western countries, the EU and the U.S., have worsened since the national elections in 2018. Concurrently, Cambodia has strengthened ties with China and relies on it to support the economy. On the investment side, Cambodia has already been relying massively on China, which accounted for nearly half of FDI inflow in 2021 and represents the top creditor of the Cambodian government with 45% of the public debt owed to Beijing. Regarding the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Cambodia had kept a neutral stance but showed disapproval of the annexation of Ukrainian regions.
Last updated : November 2022