This month's Passport Series focuses on Cambodia! We will take a look into the country this week, with a Profile and a deeper look into the Microfinance sector. Stay tuned this month for more updates and a special lender story!
Cambodia is 181,035 sq km, which makes it just smaller than Oklahoma. It is also home to 443 km of some of the most beautiful coastline and beaches in the world. The capital of Cambodia is Phnom Penh, with a population of roughly 2 million people. It is by far the largest city in Cambodia, where only 22% of the population live in urban areas. However this is quickly changing as there is a 4.6% annual rate of change towards urbanization.
Cambodia is home to tropical weather with a severe monsoon season between May and November, and then a dry season for most of the rest of the year.
Cambodia has a population of 14.45 million people. More than 50% of the population is less than 25 years old, with a median national age of 22.6 years and a life expectancy of 59.95 and 64.72 years for men and women, respectively. There are 2.9 children born to each Cambodian woman, on average. 74% of Cambodians are literate, but with a large discrepancy between men and women (85% of men are literate and only 64% of women are). 90% of Cambodians self-select themselves as Khmer, and 96.4% are Buddhist.
The Government and History:
Cambodia is currently run under a mutli-party democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The country was originally home of the Angkor empire (remnants still found in the famous historical site Angkor Wat). There was then a long period of decline and conflict from the 13th century through when the King placed the country under France's rule in 1863 for protection. They became a colony of France and gained their independence in 1953, but have had a long and hard struggle since then.
From 1975-1979 the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia and conducted a mass genocide. The Vietnamese invaded and drove the Khmer Rouge into the country-side, starting what would be an almost 13-year long civil war. There were many Peace negotiations, and in September of 1993, a constitution was finally written. There has been a turbulent struggle for political stability ever since. The most recently national elections in 2008, were relatively peaceful.
The country's GDP per capita is $2,000 (with PPP), with a current real growth rate of 4.1%. There is still significant inequality in Cambodia. The highest earning 10% of households hold 34.2% of the country's consumption, where the lowest 10% only consume 3%. They hold a high Gini index of 43, and 31% of the population still lives below the poverty line.
Only about 20% of Cambodia's land is arable and 29% of their GDP comes from agriculture, however 68% of the labor force is devoted to it. Their natural resources include: oil and gas, timber, gemstones, phosphates, and hydropower potential. Both illegal logging and mining for gems are causing serious environmental degradation issues.