Cambodia Economy

By | June 7, 2021

Marked by history

Although there are now fewer poor people in Cambodia than there were ten years ago and the country’s economy is growing, Cambodia is still one of the “less developed countries” (HDI). The consequences of the Vietnam War, the rule of the Khmer Rouge and the many civil wars can still be felt today.

What is produced in Cambodia?

Agriculture is important for the Cambodian economy, but also the production of clothing and shoes, the construction industry and, increasingly, tourism. But the infrastructure is poorly developed, education is lagging behind and energy costs are high. Many officials are also bribable. This means that companies receive orders, for example, when they pay the officials money. Wages often remain very low, which attracts companies into the country that have their goods manufactured here and pay the workers little wages for their work. These companies mostly come from the local area such as China, Vietnam or South Korea. Western companies don’t invest that much in Cambodia.

What does Cambodia sell to overseas?

Most of the people are employed in agriculture. But the Cambodians often first provide for themselves by growing rice. The rest is exported, even if not too much is left for export. In addition to rice, corn, bananas, tobacco, soy and pineapple are grown. Most of the clothes and shoes that are exported are those made in the country. The shoe industry in particular was able to increase its numbers. Rubber, wood, fish and tobacco are also exported. Electricity is extremely expensive in Cambodia, more expensive than in any other Asian country. Further hydropower and coal-fired power plants are being planned.


Tourism is also growing. More and more people are coming to Cambodia to visit the testimonies of the past, such as the temple complex of Angkor. But although tourism is growing, the local people often benefit from it little. Package tourists who book through international agencies only stay for a short time. The airlines make a lot of money and most of the proceeds go straight back to the corrupt government. So the local people get few benefits from tourism.

Poverty and corruption

According to, many people still live in great poverty and there are many Cambodians who have no work. Exact figures are missing here. People are often driven from their land so that plantations can be set up, for example for the production of sugar. The sugar producers benefit from this, but unfortunately not the population. The winnings end up in the pockets of a select few, and often enough in those of government officials. Bribery is a big problem, and since the government itself is bribable, it obviously does nothing about it.

Long-term damage from economic growth

The difference between rich and poor is therefore even greater in Cambodia than in other Asian countries. Especially in the clothing industry, people are oppressed and if they fight for their rights or better wages, they are punished for it. There are hardly any workers’ representatives and those who campaign for a trade union, for example, often have to face persecution. Part of the economic development is based on the exploitation of nature and the destruction of the rainforests. The long-term consequences are dire for the country, even if there is talk of good economic development.

Cambodia Tourism

Prahok – the Cambodian favorite spice

Prahok paste is also known as a condiment, because it smells intensely of fish because it is made from old fish. It is one of the most popular spice pastes, even if we may turn up our noses because of the strong smell. Then there is a special pepper called Kampot pepper because it grows in the Kampot area.

Grilled spiders and fried grasshoppers!

In Cambodia they also eat animals that would definitely not be on the table here. These include tarantulas, for example, which are huge spiders that are fried. Locusts and bugs also land on the plate and are often sold as a small snack in between. Turtles are also on the menu, as are half-cooked or raw bird eggs. All of this can also be bought on the roadside.

Something for everyone

If you like sweets, you can look forward to Cambodia, because waffles and cakes delight the palate. Candied sweet potatoes, rice with raisins and fried bananas are popular. By the way, breakfast consists of a soup that is cooked with rice noodles and beef.

Mainly green or yellow tea is drunk, which one also likes to sweeten. Not with sugar, but with condensed milk, which is very sweet in itself. Juices are also very popular.