As the Covid-19 vaccination campaign forges ahead at a robust pace and new daily coronavirus infections, severe cases and deaths continue a steady month-long downtrend, Cambodia will soon be able to fully reopen socio-economic activities, the top economic official affirmed on September 8.
Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth was speaking at the 5th International Conference on Nation-Building under the theme “Innovative Strategies for Crisis Recovery and Nation-Building”, conducted by the Nation-Building Institute of Thailand.
While the global economy is expected to recover in 2021, outlooks remain subject to high uncertainty and downside risks around Covid-19: the emergence of potentially more virulent coronavirus variants, new waves of infections, and continued disruptions in general socio-economic activities, the minister added.
According to the Ministry of Health’s daily vaccination progress report on September 6, Cambodia had vaccinated more than 96.09 per cent of the target adult population of 10 million and 85.55 per cent of the 12-17 age group of nearly two million.
Pornmoniroth argued that with the overall Covid-19 picture brightening over the past month, “Cambodia is expected to achieve herd immunity throughout the country, and gradually reopen the entire gamut of socio-economic activities in the near future”.
The minister, however, did not provide a timeframe for a reopening plan.
Regardless, he stressed that the government has issued nine rounds of relief measures designed to stabilise businesses and jobs, and blunt the strain of the Covid-19 crisis on the livelihoods of workers and employees, poorer households, and the most vulnerable to the harsh socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
“Honouring its commitment to turn the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity for deeper reforms aimed at building a stronger and more resilient socio-economic system that can withstand future crises, the [government] is preparing to launch the Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery Plan 2021-2023, with the goal of reviving the economy and restoring the potential for sustainable, resilient and inclusive growth”, he said.
Early last month, Cambodia drastically downgraded its economic forecast for 2021 to 2.5 per cent from the 4.1 per cent projection announced at the beginning of the year, due to the then-deteriorating Covid-19 situation.
World Bank regional vice-president for East Asia and Pacific Victoria Kwakwa told The Post in mid-July that the Kingdom is working hard to keep variants of SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 – at bay, much like other countries in the region.
“It’s had to do significant lockdowns, even though, Cambodia, by now, has the highest share of the population vaccinated in much of the region, or maybe the second-highest, after Singapore.
“Our estimates are that Cambodia could grow at about four per cent, assuming that they’re able to be successful in getting these new variants under control.
“Now, on the downside, it could be as low as just one per cent, particularly if they’re not able to get a good handle on the pandemic,” she said.
The minister said Cambodia’s three-year economic recovery plan would employ the so-called “three Rs approach” – comprising the three components “Recovery”, “Reform” and “Resilience”.
“Recovery” will focus on reviving the key sectors that formed the pillars of the pre-Covid-19 economy, as well as leveraging the opportunities offered by the potential resources that Cambodia is endowed with to the maximum extent practicable, the minister pointed out.
“Reform” will concentrate on the continuation of key structural reforms, and “Resilience” will centre on strengthening the preparedness and responsiveness to socio-economic shocks in future similar crises or disruptive events, he explained.
He heralded the plan as “an appropriate public finance policy” that would “achieve the aforementioned goals” and prioritises “ensuring allocative and operational efficiency”.
“In this regard, the government will continue to implement an expansionary budget policy, promote investment in key infrastructure, prioritise targeted spending appropriation and augment the mobilisation of potential resources through both tax and non-tax revenue, as well as introduce various financing mechanisms,” Pornmoniroth said.
These measures will help “to meet all spending needs in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and ensure the recovery of socio-economic development in Cambodia”, he added.