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Cambodia Struggling to Meet Asean Integration

Foreign ministers and government officials attend the US - Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, July 23, 2011

Cambodia’s economy is lagging behind other Asean countries, making it hard to meet the level of other Asean countries, finance officials said Wednesday.

Cambodian and Asean economic officials were meeting in Phnom Penh to push for economic integration for 2015.

Hang Chhuon Narong, secretary of state for the Ministry of Finance, said Cambodia was facing inflation of 6.5 percent, which was curbing economic growth.

Cambodia’s per capita GDP of $830 is less than all other Asean countries except Burma’s $400, he said. By comparison, Singapore’s is $35,000; Thailand’s is $4,000; and Vietnam’s is $1,200.

Yem Ponharith, secretary-general of the Human Rights Party, said during the meeting that Cambodia lacked local markets for production and consumption.

“All kinds of consumer goods are imported,” he said. “All these things slow down economic growth and the progress of our economy.”

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said Asean countries had done well to narrow development gaps, but years of war and strife put Cambodia well behind its neighbors.

“We have to work hard to push our economy toward a higher rate, not just growth of 5 percent, 6 percent or 7 percent, but growth up to 9 percent or 10 percent,” he said. “Then Cambodia can move close to some countries around us.”

The World Bank is projecting a 6.7 percent economic growth rate for Cambodia this year. That figure is lower than the Cambodian Economic Institute’s estimate of an 8.7 percent rate.