In the last fifteen years, the population of Cambodia has increased considerably (average annual increase: over 2.5%), passing from 5.5 million in 1960 to 8 million today. The urban population – which represents just over 10% of the total population – has increased twice as fast. The country’s only major city continues to remain the capital Phnom Penh, with nearly 500,000 residents around 1970; the other two important urban centers of the country, Batdambang (over 35,000 residents) and Kompong Cham (about 30,000 residents), are always very far apart.
According to Toppharmacyschools, Cambodia continues to be a very poor country (the average annual income per capita does not reach 120 dollars according to the most recent estimates). In the economic structure the primary sector continues to predominate, and in the first place agriculture, in which still more than 75% of the active population is employed. Agriculture still has many negative characteristics typical of underdeveloped countries: very low technical level (eg yields of 10 q / ha for rice; 1200 tractors for 3 million ha of crops in 1970); enormous prevalence of a single crop, rice (two thirds of arable land and 80% of the number of farms); overwhelming majority of farms equal to or less than 2 ha, mainly with a quasi-self-subsistence economy (despite the measures taken even before 1960 for the spread of cooperative forms and the expansion of agricultural credit). It is not for nothing that the primary sector gives only 40% of the country’s gross national product, and agriculture has not managed – even before the war actions – to keep pace with the increase in population, despite the fact that the area cultivated with rice is more than doubled in the thirty years 1940-70. The only development in the modern sense is presented by very few crops destined for export, primarily the plantations of hevea brasiliensis, created by French capitalists. The use of forests is still scarce, despite their considerable extension. The US bombings caused very serious damage to the agricultural sector, both directly (large number of craters in the fields) and indirectly (impediment to agricultural work, forced exodus of peasants). The consequent decrease in production – which since 1972 has fallen to approximately 1/3 of the average of the 1960s – has made it necessary, among other things, since 1971, to import rice from the USA, from Japan and Taiwan, for the first time in the country’s history. It is estimated that half of the country’s livestock has been destroyed. import of rice from the USA, Japan and Taiwan, for the first time in the country’s history. It is estimated that half of the country’s livestock has been destroyed. import of rice from the USA, Japan and Taiwan, for the first time in the country’s history. It is estimated that half of the country’s livestock has been destroyed.
The secondary sector continues to remain extremely modest (17% of the gross national product), with an activity essentially aimed at providing simple consumer goods for the population, mainly by craft companies. In the 1960s, however, a number of modern factories arose, mostly in the light industry sector, often under the influence of the state. To remember the construction, thanks to the help of the socialist countries, of a textile factory, a cement factory, a paper mill, a plant for the assembly of tractors, sawmills, irrigation systems, hydroelectric plants (state sector); thanks to private investments, canning plants, factories of rubber articles, plants for non-alcoholic beverages; thanks to joint enterprises, thermoelectric plants, of cigarette factories and an oil refinery. Factories have sprung up in Phnom Penh, Batdambang, Kompong Som. Much of these plants have been severely damaged by the war, as have two thirds of the artisan businesses. The substantial US “aid” of 1970-75 consisted essentially in military supplies. Since 1970, 55% of government expenditures have been devoted to military spending.
The tertiary sector saw, in the 1960s, the most effective of state interventions in the economy (nationalization of commercial banks and foreign trade, 1963; creation of the National Bank, 1965; purchase of shares in French companies, five-year plan 1960-64). On the other hand, the swelling of the sector starting from 1970, caused by the abnormal growth of the bureaucratic sectors (primarily the armed forces) and of the “services” connected to the masses of refugees, is quite negative. In the field of communications, the only major achievement was the Pochentong International Airport in Phnom Penh. During the war 40% of the roads were made unusable and a third of the bridges destroyed as early as 1972. Serious damage was done to the asphalt road and railway – built in the 1960s – from Phnom Pehn to the port of Sihanoukville (called Kompong Som by the right-wing military). As early as 1972, most of the supplies for the daily consumption of the people of Phnom Penh had been transported by air. Foreign trade is closely linked to the country’s backward economic structure and its colonial past: agricultural products continue to predominate in exports, with a clear prevalence of only one, rice (about 50% of exports), followed by rubber. corn, wood, pepper, sesame; imports include petroleum products and various items from the metalworking industry. In addition to the former colonial power, France, which retains the first place, trade mainly takes place with Japan, Singapore, the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain. It should be borne in mind that during the war, rice exports ceased completely.
After the end of the armed struggle, as far as is known from the scarce news reports, the first measures were taken to introduce cooperative forms in the countryside, to improve irrigation and the selection of seeds; the return to the countryside of the hundreds of thousands of farmers who had poured refugees into Phnom Penh following the US air raids was also carried out. The need for a complete geological survey of the country was reiterated.