Hun Manet aims to turn Cambodia into upper middle-income country by 2030

But critics say corruption and nepotism will be hard for the new prime minister to overcome.
By RFA Khmer
2023.08.24
Hun Manet aims to turn Cambodia into upper middle-income country by 2030 Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Manet [right] attends his first cabinet meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Aug. 24, 2023.
Credit: Tang Chhin Sothy/Pool via Reuters

Prime Minister Hun Manet said he wants to turn Cambodia into an upper middle-income country by 2030 – and a high-income country by 2050 – in an hour-long speech to ministers at his first cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Hun Manet, the eldest son of longtime leader Hun Sen, took over as prime minister earlier this week after the newly sworn-in National Assembly gave its official approval.

“The core of the strategy is to focus on governance and modernize state institutions to become modern public administration,” the 45-year-old said during the meeting televised by national broadcaster TVK.

Hun Manet read from a 22-page strategy memo that he said would serve as a roadmap for increasing employment, reducing poverty and promoting good governance while maintaining peace and political stability. 

The government’s goal is to make Cambodia an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income one by 2050, he said.

An upper-middle income country has a gross national income per capita of between US$4,256 and US$13,205, according to the World Bank, where Hun Manet worked as an intern decades ago. 

A high-income country has a gross national income per capita of more than $13,205. 

Cambodia had a per capita income of US$1700 in 2022, World Bank figures show.

ENG_KHM_HunManet_08242023.2.jpg
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Manet [rear, center], presides over the first council of minister’s session at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Aug. 24, 2023. Credit: Tang Chhin Sothy/Pool via AP

‘Can’t just eliminate nepotism’

But Um Sam An, a senior official from the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, said the strategy will be hampered by Cambodia’s ingrained corruption and nepotism. Hun Manet will have to look out for his family’s interest and other allies first, he said.

“This is a cancer in society. He can’t just eliminate nepotism and then do reform,” he said.  

The most effective way to implement the new strategy would be to reopen the political space, show respect for human rights and be more accepting of the roles that local and international NGOs play in society, legal expert Vorn Chan Lout told Radio Free Asia.

It should also establish a policy of not prosecuting opposition party figures, he said.

“The core element is to restore the rule of law,” he said. 

Activists and leaders from the country’s main opposition party, the Candlelight Party, faced threats, harassment and arrest over the last year as the ruling Cambodian People’s Party prepared for the July 23 national elections.

The CPP won 120 of the National Assembly’s 125 seats. The Candlelight Party was not allowed to compete after the government’s National Election Committee cited inadequate paperwork.

The NEC’s decision was widely condemned as politically motivated.

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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