Cambodia Investment Review

IMF Report: Cambodia’s Post-Pandemic Growth Amidst Risks, Calls for Structural Reforms in 2024

IMF Report: Cambodia’s Post-Pandemic Growth Amidst Risks, Calls for Structural Reforms in 2024

Cambodia Investment Review

In the latest evaluation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Cambodia’s economic recovery trajectory post-pandemic has been positively acknowledged, with the nation witnessing a robust GDP growth of 5.2 percent in 2022. This growth is largely attributed to the robust performance of the manufacturing sector, which contributed over 3 percent to the real GDP, and a strong resurgence in the service sector. The nation’s economic landscape and policy measures were scrutinized under the 2023 Article IV consultation, entailing a comprehensive analysis and subsequent release of critical documents including a Staff Report, an Informational Annex, a Debt Sustainability Analysis, and a Press Release.

Read more: Cambodia’s Economy Set to Grow by 30% in Upcoming GDP Revision, According to National Institute of Statistics

The IMF’s scrutiny unveils a mixed bag of economic resilience and challenges for Cambodia. On the bright side, the manufacturing sector, particularly electronics exports like solar panels, showed remarkable resilience, offsetting the decline witnessed in garment exports. The tourism sector, bolstered by events such as the 2023 South-East Asia Games, is also on a recovery path. However, the agricultural sector grapples with adversities due to weather extremities and escalating costs.

Inflation in the nation has exhibited volatility, peaking in June of the previous year and then experiencing a rebound to 3.9% in October, primarily driven by rising food and fuel prices. Addressing this, the central bank has methodically rolled back pandemic-era support measures, demonstrating fiscal prudence and resilience.

Cambodia faces a slew of risks that could potentially derail its economic progress

Despite the promising growth, Cambodia faces a slew of risks that could potentially derail its economic progress. The IMF report highlights concerns including the possible impact of slower growth in major trading partners like the U.S. and China, domestic private debt levels, geopolitical tensions, and unpredictable trade policies. Specifically, U.S. monetary tightening poses a formidable challenge, coupled with Cambodia’s high levels of private debt, which could collectively exert pressure on the nation’s economic growth.

The fiscal front also presents a challenging landscape, with the fiscal deficit expected to widen in 2023 due to factors such as extended targeted social supports, increased spending related to significant events, and the finalization of pending infrastructure projects. However, a silver lining emerges with the projection of a narrowing deficit from 2024, aligning with the authorities’ commitment to scale back temporary support measures and focus on targeted fiscal support through social protection system reforms.

The Executive Board of the IMF underscores the resilience and recovery of the Cambodian economy, commending the nation for its growth trajectory. Nevertheless, the IMF also underscores the importance of addressing the significant downside risks, emphasizing the need for fiscal consolidation as the recovery gains momentum. The focus should pivot towards neutralizing the fiscal stance by 2024, fortifying tax and customs administration, and ensuring prudent execution of public investments.

Continuation of normalization towards pre-pandemic settings

On the monetary front, the IMF advocates for the continuation of normalization towards pre-pandemic settings. This includes phasing out pandemic-related forbearance measures, maintaining adequate provisioning for NPLs (Non-Performing Loans), and recalibrating credit growth to mirror the normalization of financial conditions.

The IMF’s assessment doesn’t stop at immediate fiscal and monetary policies but extends to the need for substantial long-term reforms. To ensure sustained progress and improved living standards, the IMF recommends substantial investments in human capital, key infrastructure sectors such as transportation, energy, logistics, and telecommunication, and significant governance and anti-corruption reforms. These reforms are deemed crucial for attracting new Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), diversifying industries, and enhancing Cambodia’s attractiveness as a global tourist destination and business hub.

In conclusion, while Cambodia’s economic recovery post-pandemic is commendable, the road ahead is laden with challenges that necessitate robust and comprehensive policy measures and reforms. The IMF’s detailed assessment and recommendations provide a blueprint for sustained growth and resilience, underscoring the critical balance between addressing immediate economic challenges and laying the groundwork for long-term prosperity.

Related Articles