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Cambodia's New PM Pledges Ambitious Growth, But Offers Few Details

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Manet (C) speaks as he holds the first cabinet meeting after his election, at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on August 24, 2023.

Cambodia's new leader Hun Manet pledged Thursday to make the impoverished kingdom a "high-income country" by 2050 while boosting food security and access to healthcare, but offered little in the way of concrete plans for achieving the ambitious goals.

Lawmakers endorsed Hun Manet, the eldest son of long-time ruler Hun Sen, as the new prime minister on Tuesday, sealing a dynastic handover of power after last month's one-sided polls.

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won all but five of 125 lower house seats in the July election, which was widely dismissed as a sham after the main opposition party was barred from running.

In his first cabinet meeting on Thursday, Hun Manet pledged wide-ranging economic reforms aimed at making Cambodia a "high-income country" by 2050.

"The next 25 years will be a new cycle for Cambodia," he said in a televised speech.

The World Bank defines high-income economies as those with a per capita gross national income (GNI) of $13,846 or more. According to the bank's data, Cambodia's per capita GNI was $1,700 last year.

Hun Manet said the new strategy included improving healthcare and education, as well as addressing climate change.

It also lays out a goal of "crisis-resilient economic growth of around seven percent per year on average", as well as reducing poverty rates.

Food security was also a priority, with the aim of leaving "no Cambodian citizen behind".

Hun Manet has shown few signs he will follow a more liberal path than his father.

The new government includes a number of his relatives and several children of Hun Sen's allies in top jobs.

Hun Sen's youngest son Hun Many is the civil service minister and his nephew Neth Savoeun will be deputy prime minister.

The sons of the current interior and defence ministers took over their fathers' posts.

After coming to power in 1985, Hun Sen helped modernise a country devastated by civil war and genocide, but critics say his rule has also been marked by environmental destruction, entrenched graft and the elimination of nearly all political rivals.