PHNOM PENH —
As Cambodia prepares to host the World Economic Forum in East Asia, an official from the group that organizes the event has said the country is ready, having seen steady growth and reductions in poverty in recent years.
Justin Wood, head of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Pacific region, said while Cambodia still faced challenges, there were “also some positive stories emerging.”
“The economy is growing very rapidly; poverty has fallen very sharply. There is a different story to be told about Cambodia,” he said.
“We want the world to understand a bit more about what is happening in Cambodia.”
The WEF, which will be held from Wednesday to Friday, will focus on youth and technology. More than 700 people are expected to attend, coming from diverse backgrounds in business, government, academia and civil society.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government will want the event to be a success, lending weight to his line that his is the only party that can continue to provide stable and secure growth ahead of what is likely to be a tense general election in 2018.
However, recent research published by a consortium of local and international researchers, titled “The Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia”, suggests inequality is rife in Cambodia’s economy, education, health and political systems.
“This volume makes in very clear that calamity and misfortune continue to the present,” the book’s editors told local newspaper the Cambodia Daily.
But former commerce minister Sun Chanthol, now minister of public works and transportation, said the WEF would help Cambodia shed its image of an impoverished land that was home to the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge.
“We want to be able to let investors see for themselves and then they can come to invest in the country. Besides that, the tourism industry is also important for Cambodia. So this event will also showcase Cambodia’s culture and Cambodia’s education,” he said.
The future of Asean would also be high on the WEF agenda, Chanthol added, while Wood said that China’s “one belt, one road” infrastructure program would also be given top billing.
Hun Sen will be joined at the forum by Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, prime minister of Vietnam, and Thongloun Sisolith, prime minister of Laos, among others.