Cambodia is on track to achieve GDP growth of more than six percent next year thanks to its “well strategised and rapidly executed” vaccine rollout, according to an investment advisory firm.

“Phnom Penh ranks as one of the most vaccinated capital cities in the world, at around 99 percent of adults fully vaccinated,” Mekong Strategic Partners said in a report released earlier this week.

The report — “Vaccination Nation: Unmasking Cambodia’s Vaccination Success” — said the rollout had been “remarkable, dramatically outperforming many developed and developing nations.”

As well as the rollout being 8 months ahead of schedule and up to 12 months before neighbouring countries, “Cambodia is now one of the first countries in the world to be rolling out booster shots and vaccinating children,” it said.

“Economic evidence is clear that high vaccination rates improve economic outcomes as well as health outcomes.”

The report said Cambodia was on track to have 80 percent of adults fully vaccinated by Aug. 31 — similar to current levels in advanced countries including Singapore and higher than those in Japan, Australia and South Korea.

The report noted that Cambodia had not enjoyed access to mRNA Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. “But it has still been able to access vaccines that have a demonstrated impact on hospitalisations and death rates,” it said.

Strong contact tracing minimised impact early on, along with non-pharmaceutical interventions — including mask mandates, quarantine and lockdowns — which “bought time” for the vaccine rollout.

At the same time, Cambodia has a “greater sense of community responsibility over the individualistic response seen in some countries.”

Cambodia’s low vaccine hesitancy — as seen with previous campaigns such as TB — has been supported by vaccinating “large subsets of the community” like civil servants.

The report also noted Cambodia’s policy of acquiring vaccines “by any means possible” including donations via COVAX, direct bilateral donations, and direct purchases.

After a problematic start, strong programme management has featured a “clear and simple ring-fenced distribution plan based on location, rather than more complicated age tiering.”

Programme management has included focussing on garment factories to protect jobs and worker health and using the military to support vaccine distribution and delivery.

“First and foremost, the vaccination programme is about improving the health outcomes for the people of Cambodia. On this count, the government is succeeding.

“Fewer lockdowns and other restrictions will also improve the quality of life of Cambodians more generally.”

In addition, the report said, the programme is reducing pressure on Cambodia’s under-resourced hospital system.

“Less interruptions on manufacturing operations, and turnaround in domestic demand particularly for services, will support economic growth and encourage further foreign direct investment,” it said.

Such an economic environment will also “support the return of tourists as travel demand gradually improves.”

The report concluded that a quicker return to high growth would support the government’s fiscal position, “giving them a sound return on the significant investment they have made with the vaccination programme.”

Mekong Strategic Partners was jointly founded by John McGinley, former head of Greater Mekong Region strategy at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, and former ANZ-Royal Bank chief executive Stephen Higgins. The firm has offices in Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

Source: Agence Kampuchea Press

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