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Cambodia: World Bank’s Board Endorses a New Country Assistance Strategy and Approves an Education Sector Support Project

Bou Saroeun


Phnom Penh, May 13, 2005 —The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors endorsed a new four year Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Cambodia, for fiscal years 2005-2008, that will tackle some of the critical governance issues threatening the country’s ability to reduce poverty and achieve Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs).  Directors also approved a new Education Sector Support project for US$28 million (of which US$20 million is in the form of an IDA Grant and the remaining US$8 million is in the form of an IDA Credit).   


The Country Assistance Strategy


The World Bank will focus its activities in six major areas, clustered under the two broader pillars of improving governance for economic growth and service delivery and providing activities and resources to support the strategy development and investments needed to achieve Cambodia’s MDGs.  The CAS is aligned with, and in support of, the Government’s Rectangular Strategy, which has governance at its core.  It was produced in close cooperation with the Government of Cambodia.  Extensive consultations were also held with other stakeholders including the private sector, NGOs, and others donors.  The CAS presents a shared analysis of the country context with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the UN system and is the first of its kind in the world produced in partnership with other donors.

The Government of Cambodia welcomed the support from the World Bank’s Board.  Senior Minister Keat Chhon, Minister of Finance stated,“We would like to thank the World Bank and our development partners for the new approach taken in developing this Country Assistance Strategy (CAS), notably in the areas of donor harmonization, stakeholder consultation and the building of shared ownership. We acknowledge that this new CAS reflects our priorities of developing our human resources and delivering vital reforms through our Government’s Rectangular Strategy.

Despite difficulties due to our recent past, we have been able to achieve remarkable results in establishing better public financial management, improving the environment for private sector development, improved land management, and recently the introduction of an action plan to implement legal and judicial reform, and most importantly, promoting multi-party democracy and fundamental framework for human rights. We hope that these hard earned achievements would be appropriately recognized and encouraged further by additional support from the Bank and other development partners.

We are acutely aware of the need for continuing investment in these areas and the other key priorities to establish a basic infrastructure for pro-poor growth, building our institutions and developing human resources so that we can build on the progress to date and harness the momentum and impetus achieved toward alleviating poverty for our people and meeting  Cambodia’s MDGs.”

Mr. Ian Porter, Country Director for Cambodia , commented, “The Rectangular Strategy rightly recognizes that governance issues need to be addressed frontally if Cambodia is to attain its vision of a well governed and prosperous society.  Many in government recognize this and are making efforts to improve the governance environment.  This CAS is designed to provide financial and technical support for these reforms.  The reform agenda laid out by the Government at the December 2004 Consultative Group meeting is a good one and we are encouraged to see the serious efforts being made to implement that agenda.  The implementation of these reforms will improve the investment climate and enhance service delivery and will put Cambodia on the path to equitable growth and poverty reduction.”

Specifically, the CAS focuses on:

·         Tackling aspects of economic governance that hold back strong, broad-based private sector development, investment and trade by reforming the legal framework and building a regulatory environment that is fair, fights corruption, and ensures that private sector engagement in the delivery of public services provides good value for money. 

·         Improving transparency and accountability in the governance of natural resources, ensuring security of access to land for smallholders and supporting improvements in state land management through policy and institutional reforms.

·         Improving the probity, efficiency and effectiveness of state service delivery by addressing core issues of public financial management reform and reform of the civil service. 

·         Supporting decentralization and promoting citizens’ partnerships for better governance by helping to strengthen the country’s framework of accountability based on three key relationships: (i) between elected officials and those responsible for delivering essential services to citizens; (ii) between citizens and the state; and (iii) between those who deliver services and the citizens who receive these services. 

·         Encouraging the emergence of holistic, poverty-focused approach to the formulation and implementation of public policy by helping the Government to move towards a medium-term, evidence-based planning model that integrates disparate sectoral systems for analysis, planning, public financial management and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) into an overall strategic framework.

·         Supporting the emergence of a nationally-owned vision and strategy for infrastructure and human development, and where there are clear gaps, filling those gaps through the provision of analytical and investment services. 

Ms. Nisha Agrawal, Country Manager for Cambodia added, “The CAS also promotes a new way of doing business in Cambodia that we hope will make our assistance to Cambodia more effective.  In the past, Cambodia has received large volumes of aid, but the effectiveness of this aid has been low, partly because of poor donor practices and a lot of duplication and gaps in what the donor community has been doing.  We are very pleased that the Government has shown strong leadership of the harmonization process and that it is urging donors to take a more coordinated approach to delivering aid to Cambodia.   We strongly support the harmonization agenda and will strive during this CAS period to adopt approaches that reduce the transactions costs of delivering aid and also seek ways of doing business that genuinely build country systems and the capacity of Cambodians to lead and manage the development of their country”.

The Cambodia Education Sector Support Project


This project aims to help Cambodia address several key challenges in the education sector, namely disparities in education participation rates by different income groups and gender; inefficiency and poor quality in education service delivery at both primary and secondary school levels; and weak local management capacity.  It will do this by helping the Government – specifically, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) – implement its  Education Sector Support Program (ESSP), which identifies specific action areas aimed at expanding access to educational services by addressing supply, demand, quality and efficiency constraints, with special focus on the poor and underserved communes. 


The project will strive to achieve progress in key sector indicators that track student enrollment, progress in the schooling cycle and improvements in educational quality, including:  grade 1 intake rate by age, net enrollment rates, repetition and dropout rates, gender parity, primary completion rate, transition rate from primary to lower secondary education, student achievement scores and student:teacher ratios.  The project will target the most disadvantaged children, focusing on helping girls, ethnic minority ethnic areas and communes with high poverty incidence. 

H.E. Pok Than, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport said “Over the long term, we expect that the project will help primary and lower secondary school children nationwide by strengthening the institutional and technical capacity for education quality improvement, planning and administration. Sustainable and quality enhancing management, supervisory and pedagogical practices will be promoted so as to foster greater efficiency and effectiveness in educational service delivery.”


It will do this through a two-pronged strategy:


First, the project will improve equitable access to education through both supply- and demand-side interventions including school construction in areas with incomplete primary or no lower secondary schools as well as reduction of access barriers through targeted scholarships to encourage disadvantaged children to attend school.


Second, it will promote decentralized mechanisms to nurture educational quality enhancements, which will entail the strengthening of decentralized quality education service delivery and the development of a national assessment monitoring system.


Measures will be undertaken to ensure maximum coordination between the supply and demand-side interventions.  The project will also finance emerging needs and activities in the ESSP and within the boundaries of the stated project development objectives, to be agreed with IDA during the course of implementation.


Task team leader for the project Luis Benveniste commented, “To get real change and improvements in Cambodia’s education sector, we need to lift both the supply- and demand-side barriers to schooling access.  Children must have schools available in their vicinity, and their participation must be supported through schemes that can bring them closer to schools and reduce the direct or opportunity costs of attendance.  Coming to school, however, is no guarantee that learning will occur.  The relevance and quality of schooling must be promoted by fostering a reflective process within schools to identify their challenges and develop improvement action plans.  This process can be catalyzed through an institutional participatory framework that includes community members, parents, school staff, district supervisors and provincial officers.”


He noted that school improvement planning will be complemented with professional development efforts to enhance principal and teacher technical capacity to deliver the academic program more effectively.  An independent national assessment system will monitor progress and provide specific feedback to educators and policymakers to guide the education system towards improved student participation and academic achievement outcomes, which is the ultimate objective of the project.


For more information on the Bank's work in Cambodia, visit


For more information on the Education Sector Support Project, visit


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