2. Cambodia: Multisector Statistics

Thomas Morrison
Published Date:
November 2005
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Zia Abbasi*


2.1 This case study broadly assesses the evolution of Cambodia’s official statistics and statistical capacity building, emphasizing the partnership between the Cambodian authorities and their TA partners, as well as the lessons learned.

2.2 An assessment of Cambodia’s official statistics and statistical capacity requires an appreciation of the Cambodian context. Thus, the study begins with a broad overview of socioeconomic development in Cambodia, the current legal and institutional environment, and resources available to the government for official statistics.

2.3 The study then focuses on statistical capacity planning and implementation in Cambodia between 1993 and 2003, noting that much has been achieved in terms of improvements in the coverage, quality, and range of statistics, especially as donor coordination and strategic planning improved over the period. The importance of the role of bilateral donors and international organizations in achieving these outcomes is also reviewed.

2.4 Critical success factors and constraints are identified, including champions and leadership; ownership and commitment by the authorities and local statistics counterpart staff; awareness and understanding of the need for sound official statistics by the authorities and donors; phasing and mode of TA; effective user consultation and involvement; independence of official statistics and technical autonomy of the National Institute of Statistics (NIS); and informal statistical coordination mechanisms.

2.5 The case study concludes with a discussion of the lessons learned concerning how to improve the effectiveness of statistical capacity building.


2.6 An assessment of Cambodia’s statistical capacity, especially with respect to data quality, requires an appreciation of its current socioeconomic development, as well as an understanding of the legal and institutional environment and resources available to the government for official statistics.

Socioeconomic Situation

2.7 Cambodia has come a long way since the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in October 1991. The preceding two decades of war and the tragic loss of millions of lives during the Khmer Rouge years had left it nearly destitute in terms of both economic infrastructure and human capital. An estimated 39 percent of Cambodians lived below the poverty line in 1993.1 However, since 1993 Cambodia has made significant advances in rebuilding its political, economic, and social infrastructure. Three general elections have been held over the past decade, and a degree of political stability has been achieved.2

2.8 Despite considerable effort by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), together with its bilateral and multilateral development partners, to improve living standards and the quality of life of the Cambodian people, Cambodia still has one of the highest poverty rates in Southeast Asia (estimated at about 36 percent in 1997).3 Its Human Development Index score is currently ranked 130th out of 173 countries and is the lowest in Southeast Asia.

2.9 Cambodia is a small economy, with gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002 of about US$3.9 billion and a per capita income of US$291 per annum.4 While GDP growth has averaged just over 6 percent per annum in recent years, GDP per capita growth has averaged about 3.5 percent. The economic base still depends largely on agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, with these sectors accounting for about 34 percent of GDP. The industry sector accounts for about 26 percent of GDP, with the textiles, garments, and footwear industries accounting for 50 percent of this sector. The services sector accounts for 24 percent of GDP and is largely driven by tourism. Most of the economic growth since 1995 has been due to the growth in the textiles, garments, and footwear industries.

The Evolution of Official Statistics in Cambodia

2.10 The Cambodian national statistical system is highly decentralized. In addition to the NIS of the Ministry of Planning (MoP), all ministries (and in some cases, departments within ministries) and other institutions have planning and statistics units responsible for producing statistics. While annual appropriations for official statistics have grown from an estimated US$0.2 million in 1993 to about US$1.5 million in 2003, this is only about 0.2 percent of the total budget. The NIS budget appropriation’s share of the total has increased from about US$20,000 to US$427,300. However, these appropriations are still not commensurate with the demand for official statistics, and the NIS and other RGC statistics units do not have independent budgets. Over the past decade, the staffing level of the NIS has increased from 495 staff to more than 650 staff. However, staff with statistical skills in other RGC statistics units have been significantly reduced over the same period.

2.11 Compounding the need for adequate and autonomous appropriations for official statistics and appropriate staffing levels is the legal and institutional environment. The NIS and the few functioning RGC statistics units do not have the legal and institutional requisites to effectively collect the range of quality statistics required to monitor and measure development results. No crosscutting statistics legislation is implemented to provide the legal basis for official statistics. Similarly, no clear demarcation exists between official national and sector statistics and other management information needed to monitor government operations, services, and outcomes.

2.12 In the past decade, Cambodia has progressively moved from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, resulting in a significant transition in all spheres of Cambodian society. This transition has resulted in the dismantling of central planning, the decentralization of decision making in relation to government operations, and a high level of privatization, as well as opportunities for the private sector to grow. The central role of the MoP in economic management and central planning for the provision of government services has increasingly devolved to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and various other line ministries. This process unfortunately also led to a weakening of data coordination mechanisms and centralized information management within the government, which was not the fault of decentralization but of inadequate attention to the maintenance of coordinated data systems during decentralization.

2.13 Similarly, coordination among donors assisting the RGC in different sectors was not as effective as it could have been in the early 1990s. Donors tended to focus on only one government agency, with their TA provision covering program development, implementation, evaluation, and statistics for that agency. With a few exceptions, statistics were generally collected, compiled, and produced without taking into account the needs of the wider user community outside the sector in question. The government agencies involved tended to monopolize the TA support, and the NIS’s role in producing national statistics and its statistics collection and processing capacity were often overlooked.

2.14 Another important factor that has affected the development of Cambodia’s official statistics is that donors tend to support the production of statistics of specific interest to them. As a result, the development of official statistics has varied across sectors and has been limited for core national statistics, according to the number of interested donors and the level of TA provided. Agriculture, education, health, population, and poverty statistics have attracted relatively more TA support than macroeconomic, industry, services, environment, natural resource, and other social statistics.

2.15 To understand the environment in which Cambodia’s official statistics are being developed, donors should consider not only the issues constraining supply but also the demand for these statistics. In following up on the Millennium Declaration, Cambodia has launched several initiatives, including several institutional reforms, to meet its global and national commitment to fight extreme poverty. The National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS) builds upon a policy stance of economic growth and poverty reduction. The RGC’s reform agenda essentially focuses on deepening economic reforms and macroeconomic stability, including fiscal and monetary reforms, trade and investment promotion, administrative reforms, military demobilization, and improved fishery and forestry management. The RGC has identified four priority sectors: education, health, rural development, and agriculture. In each sector, major programs of economic and social infrastructure development are underway. It has also prepared a Governance Action Plan to enhance governance in key areas such as the judicial and legal system, anticorruption programs, and public finance.

2.16 Related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the NPRS, and various economic, fiscal, and monetary reform initiatives, the demand for official statistics has increased substantially. An integrated and relevant national statistical system has, therefore, emerged as an important component of overall reforms. High-standard and quality statistics are needed to capture economic growth and poverty reduction, as well as other dimensions of social development (e.g., gender equality, education and literacy, health and nutrition) and related demographic, economic, environment and natural resources, and social statistics.

Strategies and Plans for Improvement

2.17 The RGC authorities recognized at an early stage the need for good-quality national statistics on the Cambodian economy, society, and population, and reflected that accordingly in the first five-year Socioeconomic Development Plan (SEDP). However, at that time, no separate strategic plan focused solely on statistical development. The production of official statistics at the sector level was viewed as a planning function of each of the relevant ministries. Given the limited financial resources available to the government, it focused initially on moderately redeploying resources and staff to strengthen the planning function within line ministries.

2.18 The authorities’ initial position was that the existing administrative processes and regulations would continue to provide the data needed to compile official statistics. What was not appreciated at the time was that the administrative data collections set up to provide statistics for a centrally planned economy were neither suitable nor of sufficient quality to meet the information needs of policymakers in a transition economy. Furthermore, the central government’s beginning to decentralize decision making and devolve responsibility was also weakening the MoP’s capacity to ensure effective data coordination. Another compounding factor was unclear definition of responsibilities for specific statistics. This resulted in duplication of effort and uncertainty about which sets of statistics were official (e.g., consumer price indexes (CPIs) were produced by the MEF and the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) during 1994 and 1995, and national accounts were produced by the MEF and MoP from 1993 to 1995).

2.19 By early 1994, the authorities realized that while devolution was important in improving government operations and providing services, responsibility for basic official statistics needed to be centralized, and stronger data coordination mechanisms were needed. This led to the establishment of the NIS, as the national statistical institute, within the MoP in that year. The NIS was given sole responsibility for key official national statistics, such as the CPI, national accounts, and population statistics. The implementation of the Subdecree on Statistical Obligations in 1997 elevated the NIS from a department to a directorate general and strengthened its coordination role.

2.20 The authorities also realized that the administrative data collections were not providing suitable source data to compile key economic and sociodemographic statistics and that statistics staff had little or no experience in compiling the statistics required. As resources were scarce, the authorities recognized the need to enlist the donor community in financing and providing TA in the following areas: developing statistical capacity, skills, and infrastructure; conducting surveys; and compiling key economic and sociodemographic statistics.

2.21 While the authorities would have preferred to engage the donor community in supporting an integrated approach to developing the national statistical system, the government was constrained by the differing priorities of the various multilateral and bilateral donors. As a result, the authorities developed separate statistical plans and partnerships with key multilateral donors for each area of statistics from 1993 to 1997. The main partners in statistical development over the past decade have been the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and IMF, for economic and financial statistics; and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), for sociodemographic statistics. While these multilateral donors provided the main financing and/or TA in developing Cambodia’s official statistics, the authorities also engaged bilateral donors and other multilateral donors to supplement major development activities, conduct one-off surveys, and support sector statistics.

2.22 By 1997, both the authorities and donors recognized that separate TA agreements had hampered effective data coordination and made it difficult to reduce duplication, especially in collecting data. This led to improvements in the coordination of TA among donors and among line ministries. It also resulted in a strengthening of the NIS’s role in facilitating more effective data coordination and integration between 1998 and 2002.

2.23 The second SEDP also helped focus on statistical capacity development and the need for improved data coordination and integration. The SEDP included initiatives to expand data collection and compilation for a number of sectors, especially poverty statistics. However, statistical development was still seen as part of the overall development objectives for each economic and social concern and as the responsibility of the relevant line ministry.

2.24 By 2002, statistical development planning had reached a degree of maturity and become more integrated, reflecting the authorities’ two main objectives, economic growth and poverty reduction. The statistical objectives set out in the second SEDP and the first NPRS reflect this integrated approach. In addition, the first NIS Strategic Plan (2002–2006) and the five-year NIS Forward Work Program (2003–2007) were released in July 2002. These documents outline long-term statistical development strategies and annual development priorities for the NIS and the national statistical system. The authorities also convened a statistics workshop in October 2002, “Partnerships in Statistics Capacity Building (SCB) for Cambodia.” Participants included all line ministries with responsibility for official statistics and the donor community in Cambodia. In addition to the NIS plan and work program, many other statistical capacity development proposals were presented at the workshop. In terms of content, the NIS plan and work program and the proposals discussed at the workshop constitute the main elements of a statistics master plan for Cambodia. The NIS authorities intend to develop the master plan in 2005 for release in early 2006.

2.25 Cambodia’s adoption of the IMF’s General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) framework has also further improved statistics planning and monitoring. The NIS prepared the GDDS metadata templates, with the assistance of an IMF GDDS mission and the multisector advisor (MSA), in December 2001. The RGC officially adopted the GDDS in February 2002. Short-term and medium-term plans to improve the production and dissemination of official statistics have been developed and are being implemented as resources permit. The NIS has monitored progress and completed its first GDDS Review in February 2003. Good progress has been made in implementing short-term plans, especially for balance of payments, national accounts, consumer prices, money and banking, education, and poverty statistics.

Implementation and Outcomes

Statistical Organization Prerequisites

Statistical legislation and regulations

2.26 Considerable attention has been given to developing statistical legislation in recent years. The prime ministerial Subdecree on Statistics Obligations was drafted and promulgated in 1997. The drafting of the statistics law commenced in earnest in early 2000, with ADB providing support. The draft law was substantially revised between November 2001 and May 2002, with IMF MSA assistance, to incorporate the fundamental principles of official statistics and to recognize the need for stronger coordination mechanisms, given the highly decentralized nature of the national statistical system. The draft law was approved by the Council of Ministers (COM) in June 2002 and submitted to the National Assembly in August 2002. The law was not yet enacted by the beginning of 2005. In addition, a draft Subdecree on Statistics Obligations, Roles and Responsibilities has been prepared and is being discussed by an interministerial technical working group. The Subdecree on Designated Official Statistics and related statistical regulations are currently being prepared. Statistical regulations have also been prepared and approved by the NBC Governor to implement the International Transactions Reporting System (ITRS) collection and the release of the new quarterly Balance of Payments, Cambodia publication.

Statistics coordination

2.27 Since 1997, a significant improvement has occurred in statistical TA coordination arrangements among most line ministries and the NIS, as well as among the donor community. Good examples of effective partnerships between the authorities and the donor community are the 1998 General Population Census of Cambodia, the 1999 Socioeconomic Survey of Cambodia, and the 2000 Demographic and Health Survey.

2.28 The draft statistics law and subdecrees specifically provide for establishing the Statistics Advisory Council and Statistics Coordination Committee (including provisions relating to the composition and functions of these bodies), as well as for implementing other formal coordination mechanisms and institutional arrangements. The NIS has established technical working groups, with ADB assistance, for statistical legislation, agriculture statistics, environment and natural resources statistics, and foreign trade statistics. The authorities have also expanded and improved statistics cooperation, with IMF MSA assistance, among the NIS, ministries, and other institutions in relation to data-sharing arrangements.

2.29 The IMF MSA has assisted the NIS in improving the coordination of donor financing and TA for statistical capacity building for the MEF, MoP, NBC, and NIS. The MSA has worked closely with staff of the ADB, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the German Technical Commission (GTZ), the IMF, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), the UNDP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UNFPA, and other experts and volunteers. Assistance has been provided to the authorities in coordinating ADB experts and IMF missions and in preparing ADB TA and IMF mission proposals.

Statistical planning frameworks

2.30 With IMF MSA assistance, the NIS implemented a Strategic and Forward Work Program Planning and Monitoring Framework in February 2002. MoP/NIS senior officials meet monthly and NIS department heads meet weekly to monitor progress in implementing capacity development and the statistics work program. The NIS Forward Work Programs (2002–2006) and (2003–2007) and the NIS Strategic Plan (2002–2006) were approved and released in April and July 2002, respectively. Work program planning and monitoring has also been introduced for statistics units in the MEF; the NBC; the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS); and the Ministry of Health (MoH) through the GDDS framework. Similarly, awareness of the need for work plans and monitoring has been significantly raised for most other statistics units of the RGC by the MSA through the development of SCB project proposals, as well as the conduct of the SCB workshop in October 2002.

Statistics development

2.31 A broad review of current statistical capacity was conducted with IMF MSA assistance from January to May 2002, and the findings were released in the Report on Statistical Capacity Building for Cambodia’s Official Statistics in June 2002. The report, considered a draft statistics master plan, includes broad programs, financing, and TA requirements for developing and improving official statistics. As mentioned above, the SCB workshop was conducted in October 2002 and discussed 58 project proposals. The workshop was successful in improving donor and government understanding of Cambodia’s current statistical capacity, as well as in raising donor and government awareness of the need to:

  • Implement appropriate statistical legislation and regulations and ensure that the legislation and regulations are enforced;
  • Increase RGC appropriations and donor financing for official statistics;
  • Establish a central body to advise the RGC and NIS on statistical development priorities and emerging demands for statistics;
  • Improve coordination within the donor community and the government on TA issues;
  • Establish a central statistics coordination committee and implement formal mechanisms and other institutional arrangements to ensure effective coordination of statistical capacity building and information sharing;
  • Strengthen staffing, information technology (IT) resources, and facilities commensurate with the demand for official statistics, and implement more effective resource monitoring;
  • Improve remuneration and career paths for statistics staff;
  • Implement an integrated skills development strategy for statistics staff;
  • Introduce performance management and merit-based recruitment and promotion processes for statistics staff;
  • Ensure efficient use of resources by eliminating duplication and leveraging the survey and data processing capacity of the NIS;
  • Ensure official statistics are produced on an impartial and independent basis, and introduce transparent statistical policies and practices;
  • Ensure that the methodological basis for official statistics is in line with international standards and good practice;
  • Ensure the quality of statistical methods and the accuracy and reliability of statistics; and
  • Ensure that official statistics and related metadata are readily accessible, comparable, and timely, and that periodicity of release is aligned to data user needs.

Statistical roles, functions, organization structure, and staffing arrangements

2.32 The IMF MSA assisted the director general of the NIS in developing a detailed organizational restructuring proposal in early 2002. A detailed implementation plan, Structures, Roles, and Functions of the National Institute of Statistics (July 2003), has been released and is in the process of being implemented. The plan includes:

  • Role and function statements for NIS statistical units, as well as advisory, coordination, and management bodies;
  • Staff competency and duty statements;
  • Organizational charts for central, provincial, and district offices;
  • Recruitment, selection, appointment, probation, performance management, and promotion procedures;
  • Secrecy agreements and security clearances;
  • Staff streaming and remuneration; and
  • Job rotation, training, and development.

2.33 A similar implementation plan on the establishment of an NBC statistics department has been prepared and approved for implementation. Similar restructuring plans are being developed and/or implemented for some other RGC statistics units, for example the Ministry of Veterans and Women’s Affairs.

Government financing

2.34 Although not significant, moderate increases have been made in government appropriations for NIS statistical activities over the past decade. The 2003 budget allocation was US$427,300, an increase of approximately 20 percent over the 2002 allocation. Similarly, remuneration for senior managers (i.e., directors and above) has increased considerably, and a further 26 NIS senior statistician positions were identified as part of the donor-assisted Priority Mission Group (PMG) initiative. Staff in these positions were to be paid salary supplements from 2004 onward. However, overall financing is still not commensurate with the demand for statistics.

Staff training and development

2.35 In 2001, ADB financed the establishment of an in-house statistics training program and the NIS Training Center. Findings from a review of NIS training and development needs, conducted in January 2002, were documented in the NIS Training Program Review Report. The NIS Training and Development Strategy (March 2002) outlines future directions and training courses to be implemented.

2.36 On-the-job training has been provided in macroeconomic statistics, especially for balance of payments, labor force, monetary, national accounts, and price statistics. Data collection and compilation by local officials leading to the establishment of self-sustaining statistical systems have been emphasized. In addition, a number of MEF, NBC, and NIS officials have been sponsored for courses, tertiary studies, and workshops by the ADB, ESCAP, the IMF, and the Statistics Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP) over this period. An estimated 10 percent of statistical staff have gained postgraduate tertiary qualifications in applied statistics through this TA. While overall skills have significantly developed from a very low skills base, skills development has not been integrated across government, and some agencies and ministries have benefited far more than others.

Economic and Financial Statistics

National accounts statistics

2.37 The development of national accounts statistics has accelerated significantly in recent years, compared with the 1990s. This has been partly due to substantial support by the ADB (the only donor supporting national accounts development between 1994 and 2000), which provided financing for the significant survey program required to build the national accounts database. The development of national accounts statistics in the past two years is a good example of successful partnerships between the authorities and TA partners (the ADB and IMF). Significant ADB expert assistance and IMF MSA assistance have been provided to the NIS in improving compilation methods for both production and expenditure accounts aggregates in the past two years, resulting in significant revisions in 1993 to 2000 estimates, including an average increase in real GDP levels of 10 percent.

2.38 Further improvements in the source data and compilation methods were made during the 2003 estimation round, resulting in improved estimates, as well as an average increase in real GDP levels of 4 percent. The 2003 release of National Accounts of Cambodia, 1993–2002 is approximately three times the size of the first bulletin (1993–96) released in 1997. The analytical content and number of statistical tables released over the years have also significantly increased. Additional detailed tables were included for the industry sector, services sector, household final consumption expenditure, and the experimental national income account. The technical notes section of the bulletin has also increased substantially.

2.39 The national accounts are now broadly consistent with the System of National Accounts 1993 (1993 SNA), although full implementation is expected to take several years. New compilation methods have been implemented and revised estimates have been produced for many sectors. Experimental national accounts using the income approach were developed for the first time for 1993–2002. The MSA has also assisted in improving consistency of the 2001 and 2002 estimates with other macroeconomic statistics.

2.40 The NIS has significantly improved access to the administrative data required to compile the accounts and, with ADB experts, improved the quality of NIS survey data. It has improved coordination of final administrative and survey data for the relevant reference year for use in compiling national accounts estimates. It is more effectively using existing and new data sources. Access to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) data on crops and livestock, fisheries, forestry, and rubber production has been improved, and basic supply/use tables have been developed for rice, fish, and some other agricultural products.

2.41 Improved data access has resulted in improved estimates for international tourism and new estimates for domestic tourism; new estimates for casinos; improved estimates for the finance industry and financial services charges; improved estimates for public administration; and new estimates for nonprofit organizations serving households. New NIS population projections data have been used to improve compilation of various series, especially household consumption expenditure. Access to the Council for the Development of Cambodia’s (CDC) investment and nongovernment organizations expenditure data, to the Customs and Excise Department (CED) data, and to NBC unrecorded exports and imports estimates have resulted in more consistent national accounts estimates. Improved access to MAFF prices and other price data has led to revisions in price deflators.

2.42 The AsDB TA has underpinned the development of the national accounts database. It has assisted the NIS in conducting three establishment surveys, in 1993, 1995, and 2000; several Phnom Penh surveys and two national labor force surveys, in 2000 and 2001; the quarterly Survey of Hotels and Manufacturing Establishments; and the quarterly Retail Trade Survey. More recently, the ADB has financed a number of one-off agriculture and informal sector surveys for agriculture, marine and inland fisheries, forestry, rubber plantations, traditional textile manufacturers, small retailers and wholesalers, guesthouses, and land and water transport operators. The results from all of these surveys have helped produce new and revised formal and informal sector gross value added (GVA) ratios and production estimates for a number of industries from 1994 to 2002.

2.43 Work has commenced on compiling quarterly national accounts. The NIS intends to produce experimental quarterly national accounts from March quarter 2000 to June quarter 2005. The estimates will be consistent with the annual accounts on both expenditure and production bases. Source data are reasonably timely and comparable in quality to the annual source data currently used. An ESCAP expert has worked with the IMF MSA and NIS staff on developing the basic methodology. The IMF MSA worked with NIS counterparts on compilation methods and the development of the Excel spreadsheets.

2.44 The ADB provided significant support for statistical skills development in conducting economic surveys and compiling national accounts statistics over the past decade. In March 2002, the ADB expert and the IMF MSA conducted a three-week national accounts statistics course for 40 data compilers and users from the NIS and other ministries. In addition, two staff have attended the IMF national accounts statistics course at IMF headquarters. IMF MSA and ADB experts have provided ongoing assistance and on-the-job training to improve the quality of data collection, data quality assurance, compilation, and analysis and dissemination.

Price statistics

2.45 The NIS has significantly expanded its price statistics program since the first release of the monthly Phnom Penh CPI in 1995, extending consumer price collection to five provincial cities in addition to Phnom Penh, with ADB TA. The NIS has produced a linked CPI series, combining the 2000 series with the 1994 series for the Phnom Penh CPI, with MSA assistance. Assisted by an ADB expert, it has also released two provincial CPI publications. The MSA assisted the NIS in developing a methodology to link the various cities’ CPI series to produce an Other Urban CPI and an Urban CPI. A new quarterly Urban CPI publication was released in January 2003.

2.46 Work has begun on producing a quarterly producer price index (PPI) for Cambodia, with ADB and IMF statistics department technical assistance (STA). A producer price survey commenced in August 2003, and the PPI for March quarter 2000 to September quarter 2003 was also released soon thereafter.

2.47 The MSA conducted an abridged IMF price statistics course in March 2003, for 40 data collectors, compilers, and users from the NIS and other ministries. In addition, two staff have attended the IMF’s Joint Vienna Institute (JVI) price statistics course. Ongoing assistance and on-the-job training have been provided by ADB experts, the IMF MSA, and IMF missions to improve the quality of data collection, data quality assurance, compilation, and analysis and dissemination. The explanatory and technical notes in quarterly prices publications have been expanded to provide more information on concepts, sources, and methods.

Foreign trade statistics

2.48 The development of foreign trade statistics has been less successful, mainly owing to the lack of financing. However, the NIS has established a Foreign Trade Statistics Technical Working Group, which meets quarterly. The MSA has assisted the NBC and NIS to improve access to existing CED data and has prepared new report specifications for volume, value, and price data (by commodity and country). Despite significant resource constraints, CED has continued to cooperate with the NBC and the NIS and has completed the programming to generate the reports required, with the IMF IT advisor’s assistance. Annual reports have been provided for 2001 and 2002, and monthly and quarterly reports for 2003.

Balance of payments statistics

2.49 The IMF posted a resident balance of payments statistics advisor to assist the NBC on balance of payments, foreign investment, and foreign trade statistics from May 1995 to May 1997. The NBC has significantly progressed in improving balance of payments (BOP) and international investment position (IIP) statistics data sources and compilation methods, as well as consistency with the standards of the IMF Balance of Payments Manual, fifth edition (BPM5). Compiling annual and quarterly BOP and IIP statistics, it publishes annual BOP statistics and quarterly BOP and IIP statistics. In addition, a Summary Concepts, Sources and Methods Manual was released in October 2003.

2.50 The NBC, assisted by the IMF MSA and missions in 2001–2003, has reviewed and improved compilation methods and access to existing administrative data sources for unrecorded exports and imports, reexports, transportation, travel, other services, income, current and capital transfers, foreign investment, and Cambodian investment abroad. More effective use is being made of partner country data. BOP and IIP estimates are now comparable. Revised quarterly estimates have been prepared for all quarters from 1998 to 2002. More detailed data have been compiled for a number of aggregates, especially travel credits and unrecorded trade.

2.51 In January 2003, the NBC financed and implemented a monthly ITRS to collect much-needed data of international transactions via the banking system, improving balance of payments estimates. The ITRS data have been assessed as being of good quality and covering approximately 90 percent of the total value of transactions going through the banking system. A revised questionnaire for foreign direct investment enterprises has also been developed and pilot tested. Unfortunately, the lack of financing has meant that a regular survey has yet to commence.

Government finance statistics

2.52 The MEF is progressively implementing the recommendations of the March 2001 IMF mission. MEF reporting of monthly data for inclusion in the IMF’s monthly International Financial Statistics (IFS) has continued, provided on a basis consistent with the IMF’s Government Finance Statistics Manual, 1986 (GFSM 1986). The MEF has begun producing government finance statistics (GFS) broadly based on the IMF’s Government Finance Statistics Manual, 2001 (GFSM 2001), submitting preliminary 2001 GFS to the IMF Statistics Department. Progress in improving GFS has generally been slow, owing to limited financing and the lack of full-time counterpart staff.

Monetary and financial statistics

2.53 The NBC has significantly progressed in improving monetary statistics over the past decade. It has introduced a new chart of accounts that conforms with international standards for commercial and specialized banks and has revised the statistical compilation procedures to reflect the classification scheme of the new chart of accounts. It has reviewed mapping procedures used for moving from the old NBC chart of accounts to the new chart of accounts and revised procedures used for compiling the NBC’s account statement. It has also implemented a new methodology for compiling monetary and financial statistics, as recommended in the IMF’s Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual (MFSM). The IMF MSA and the 2002 mission assisted the NBC in improving the coverage and quality of monetary statistics.

Other economic statistics

2.54 Various line ministries and their departments produce summary annual industry statistics based on administrative or statistical collections. However, the reliance on ad hoc donor funding and TA, as well as the lack of sufficient coordination of statistical activities, have resulted in inadequate coverage of some industries. For example, MAFF, the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), and the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) appear to be better resourced to produce some of the core data required, but the CDC; the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME); the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPT); and the Ministry of Transport and Public Works (MTPW) are underresourced. In addition, the current portfolio structure for the economic ministries does not favor the collection, coordination, and dissemination of industry and sector statistics.

Sociodemographic Statistics

Population and demographic statistics

2.55 Significant financing and TA by the UNFPA have underpinned the development of population statistics for Cambodia. The NIS successfully conducted the 1996 Cambodian Demographic Survey and the 1998 General Population Census of Cambodia and has continued to compile and disseminate demographic and population statistics over the years. It has released 16 publications and analytical reports. Having conducted in 1998 the first population census in Cambodia since 1962, the NIS intends to continue to hold decennial censuses.

2.56 The 1999 Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey, conducted with the assistance of the UNDP, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and the World Bank, provides estimates of the total population, household composition, age structure, marital status, economic activities, and housing characteristics and amenities.

2.57 The 2000 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), conducted with the assistance of the UNFPA, UNICEF, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provides new estimates of fertility and mortality rates. In addition, the DHS provides information on household population by age, sex, and residence and housing characteristics and amenities.

Poverty statistics

2.58 The UNDP has provided the majority of the financing for compiling official poverty indicators and for conducting the Socioeconomic Survey of Cambodia (CSES) 1993–94, 1996, 1997, and 1999 through the Capacity Development for Socioeconomic Surveys and Planning Project. As mentioned earlier, the ADB has also contributed extensively to the previous two surveys. Other TA partners have included the International Labor Organization (ILO), SIDA, UNICEF, and the World Bank. The UNDP is also financing the Poverty Monitoring and Analysis System (PMAS) and the development of the Poverty Monitoring Information System (PMIS).

2.59 Estimates of the distribution of income and consumption by household in Cambodia are based on the CSES conducted in 1993–94, 1996, 1997, and 1999. Consumption poverty indicators derived from the CSES (such as the headcount ratio and poverty gap) are based on (i) a food poverty line, which refers to a minimal standard of living just sufficient to meet food consumption needs; and (ii) a higher poverty line, which includes a minimal allowance for nonfood consumption.

Dissemination and Use of Official Statistics

Availability and quality of statistics and methods documentation

2.60 The availability and quality of data sources for national accounts, BOP, CPI, labor force, and monetary and financial statistics, as well as for the socioeconomic statistics, have gradually improved. Documentation of BOP, national accounts, labor force, prices, government finance, and monetary statistics has also improved (for example, in STA mission reports, GDDS templates, and statistical publications and in summary concepts, sources, and methods documents). The Directory of Statistical Sources, begun in January 2003 and completed in 2004, includes broad concepts, methods, and sources metadata in relation to statistics produced by all RGC statistics units.

Dissemination and public access to official statistics and methodology

2.61 The NIS first launched the census website in December 2000 and then the expanded NIS website,, in July 2002, both with UNFPA assistance. It will expand and improve the content of the website, including statistics and related metadata, as resources permit. Metadata for priority socioeconomic statistics included in the GDDS templates are also now available via the IMF public website. The NIS has expanded and improved the statistical content and technical notes of its publications (e.g., the content of the Statistics Yearbook increased 33 percent). It has released new publications on child labor, provincial and urban consumer price indices, and new electronic products. As a result of the establishment of the Data Users Service Center in mid-2002, the NIS has also improved access to official statistics, also with UNFPA assistance. In addition, the MoC and MoT have statistics pages on their websites, and the NBC has begun developing its website (including statistics web pages). Official statistics are also released in the standard printed form by a number of agencies. In addition, the annual reports of various other ministries (including department-level annual reports in some instances) and institutions generally provide summary statistical data.

2.62 Under the framework of the project, Capacity Development for Poverty Monitoring and Analysis— led by the Council for Social Development in partnership with SIDA and the UNDP—the RGC has established a PMAS. The PMAS aims at timeliness and reliability of data, including the monitoring of process, inputs, outputs, and outcomes. The PMAS also aims at achieving both openness and result orientation for informed policy dialogue and decision making, by strongly emphasizing the measurement of poverty in relation to key macroeconomic, sector, and budgetary reforms. The system is expected to be the main tool for regular reporting on Cambodia’s progress toward achieving its national development goals.

Conclusions and Lessons Learned


2.63 The implementation of TA over the past decade has contributed to sustainable capacity building in the following areas:

  • Improved statistical legislation and coordination arrangements;
  • Improved strategic planning, work program development, and work program monitoring by the NBC and NIS;
  • Effective leadership and management of statistical projects in the NBC and NIS;
  • Improved staff development and management in the NBC and NIS;
  • Improved statistical skills of local counterparts involved in producing macroeconomic and financial statistics;
  • GDDS short-term and medium-term planning and framework implementation for relevant line ministries;
  • Expanded and improved data and metadata dissemination by the NBC and NIS via publications, electronic products, and websites;
  • Expanded and improved documentation and dissemination of concepts, sources, and methods used in producing macroeconomic, financial, and priority sociodemographic statistics;
  • Improved quality of data collected by the NBC and NIS;
  • Improved consistency with international standards and improved compilation methods; and
  • Improved access to administrative data sources.

2.64 While TA has had a measurable impact, it is less likely to be sustained without further follow-up assistance, in relation to:

  • Enforcement of statistics legislation;
  • Improved formal statistical coordination arrangements and statistics governance;
  • Establishment of central RGC statistics units and an integrated national statistical system;
  • Improved planning and work program development and monitoring by all RGC statistics units;
  • Effective leadership and management of statistical programs, as well as improved recruitment and remuneration of statistics staff for RGC statistics units;
  • Appropriate financing for statistics capacity building and ongoing activities;
  • Improved data and metadata dissemination by other RGC statistics units via publications, electronic products, and the NIS website;
  • Improved quality of administrative data sources;
  • Expanded and improved data collection activities; and
  • Improved dissemination of official statistics and related metadata by RGC statistics units other than the NIS and the NBC.

2.65 Sustainability in these areas would be ensured by implementing the UNDP Capacity Development of the National Statistical System Program and the related TCAP proposal, as well as a continuation of TA provided by the ADB, the IMF, JICA, the UNFPA, and other donors over the medium term.

Lessons Learned

2.66 Several factors have contributed to developing Cambodia’s official statistics and statistical capacity over the past decade, including champions and leadership; ownership and commitment by the authorities and local statistics staff; awareness and understanding of the need for sound official statistics by the authorities and donors; phasing and mode of STA; effective user consultation and involvement; independence of official statistics and technical autonomy of the NIS; informal statistical coordination mechanisms; and use of technology.

Champions and leaders

2.67 A critical success factor contributing to developing Cambodia’s official statistics has been its champions. This is evident in the case of the development of official statistics produced by the NIS and NBC.

The governor of the NBC, both as governor and in his previous position as minister of planning, has championed the development of Cambodian statistics over the past decade and has played a leading role in their development, as well as in increasing appropriations for statistics for these two agencies. The minister of planning, secretary of state in charge of statistics, and director general of the NIS have also championed the development of Cambodia’s official statistics and the important expansion of the NIS and its statistics program since 1998. However, champions have not come forward in the areas of international trade and government finance statistics; agriculture, industry, and services statistics; social sector statistics; environment and natural resources statistics; and regional or sub-national statistics.

2.68 The success of any project depends greatly on effective leadership and management. The people and project management and technical skills of senior officials at the MoP, NBC, and NIS responsible for statistics have been developed significantly in recent years through donor sponsorship of overseas studies. Effective leadership and management have contributed vastly to the improvements in MoP, NBC, and NIS economic and poverty statistics and to the successful conduct of the population census and several major establishment and household surveys by the NIS. While the MoP, NBC, and NIS have been successful, this success is to the credit of a dozen or so effective leaders and managers, and more needs to be done in developing the depth of leadership and management in these organizations.

Commitment and ownership

2.69 While strong commitment and ownership of statistics development are evident at the MoP, NBC, and NIS, they are less evident in other ministries and agencies responsible for producing official statistics. The success of any project depends on ownership of project objectives by the authorities and local counterparts. The successful development of BOP and national accounts statistics, the introduction of the ITRS collection, and successful conduct of NIS household surveys are all examples of the strong commitment of the authorities. Future TA initiatives should continue emphasizing the need for commitment and ownership by both the authorities and local counterparts.

2.70 The commitment of local counterparts at the MoC, MOEYS, MoP, MoT, NBC, and NIS is partly responsible for the major improvements over the past several years in balance of payments, commerce, monetary and financial, national accounts, prices, primary education, population, poverty, and tourism statistics. However, the level of commitment of local counterparts is limited as a result of poor pay and conditions. Inadequate remuneration continues to have a detrimental impact on capacity building and the quality of official statistics, despite relatively large increases in the past two years. The overall impact of low remuneration means that a number of counterparts do not work normal office hours and knowledge transfer and progress in implementing objectives have been slower than they could have been. For example, TA is often hampered by the lack of full-time counterparts. MoP and NIS authorities are attempting to address this challenge by including local counterparts in the PMG initiative. A need exists for the relevant authorities responsible for other RGC statistics units to include key statistical staff in the PMG initiative.

Financing for statistics

2.71 Possibly the most significant constraint in developing statistics is appropriate financing. Government financing as a percentage of the total budget for Cambodia’s official statistics is among the lowest of all Southeast Asian countries. Almost all survey activity is donor financed. With the exception of financing for the consumer prices and ITRS collections, no budget allocations exist for regular surveys. To produce good-quality statistics, a significant increase in government budget appropriations for statistics is essential. The additional funding needs to be directed to conducting surveys:

  • annual agriculture, establishment, financial sector, and government-owned enterprise surveys.
  • quarterly surveys of domestic and international investment; international trade in services; selected producer, trade, and services prices; business profits; and the labor force.
  • expanded monthly consumer prices surveys.

2.72 The NIS has yet to conduct agriculture sector and establishment censuses, and the absence of these benchmark data reduces the quality of annual national accounts estimates. The establishment census is also needed to develop an integrated business register.

2.73 Additional financing is also required to strengthen administrative collections. Lack of sufficient funding for the CDC and CED to redevelop systems and to collect foreign trade prices and volumes data and international investment data has delayed progress in developing merchandise trade price indices and improving IIP statistics. Considerable scope remains for further improving the range and quality of Cambodia’s economic and financial statistics, if appropriate financing is made available.

Awareness and understanding

2.74 Increased awareness and understanding of the need for good-quality national statistics have also contributed to the development of official statistics in Cambodia, especially since 1998. Examples include the commitment of significant donor and government financing for developing poverty statistics, the conducting of the 1998 General Population Census of Cambodia, and the CSES. More recently, the SCB Workshop conducted in October 2002 significantly improved donor and government understanding of Cambodia’s statistics capacity and raised donor and government awareness of the need to increase financing for capacity development.

User consultation and involvement

2.75 The MoP, NBC, and NIS have a good track record of ensuring that data users are actively involved in planning, developing, conducting, and evaluating the establishment and household surveys. The agencies also conduct regular user seminars whenever the national accounts or the results of major surveys are released. In addition to attracting additional financing, this contact results in more relevant statistics for data users. While other RGC statistics units consult to a degree, consultation is far less frequent, thus contributing to poorer quality and less relevant statistics. The resulting lower profile of these statistics has also led to lower levels of TA.

Phasing and mode of technical assistance

2.76 Effective phasing and the mode of TA are also critical success factors. For example, IMF TA commenced with a multisector statistics mission in 1992 and followed through with a combination of resident advisors and short-term missions. The combination of a resident ADB senior statistics advisor in the early 1990s and a resident IMF MSA since November 2001, working with ADB short-term experts, has also been effective. This has resulted in statistics on balance of payments, consumer prices, labor force, money and banking, and national accounts that are more developed than other economic statistics. Similarly, the combination of long- and short-term experts provided by the UNFPA was also a major factor in successfully developing NIS demographic and population statistics.

Selection and use of experts

2.77 The appropriate selection and use of experts is a critical success factor for TA. Occasionally, donors select experts on the basis of their seniority in national statistics agencies at the time they retired or on the assumption that the higher the tertiary qualification the better. The general view of the authorities is that these criteria are not necessarily effective and that the key to a successful expert is applied skills and results orientation. The most effective experts are hands-on, are willing to learn as much as to teach—irrespective of their seniority or tertiary qualifications—and are willing to lead by example. TA is less effective when an expert assumes that giving broad direction and providing conceptual training are all that is required. Effective TA in Cambodia requires an expert to understand local culture and to appreciate, for example, that counterparts may be reluctant to ask questions or challenge advice, even when they suspect that the proposed methodology is not appropriate in the Cambodian context. To ensure data quality, experts must be willing to supervise directly the development of the establishment register or population frame and to review the data and coding at each stage of processing, from completed survey questionnaires through output validation. To paraphrase the current senior minister of finance, “At times the expert teaches the local counterparts to cook and at other times the expert needs to cook so that the meal is prepared on time.”

2.78 TA is also less effective when the workloads and terms of reference of the experts are too ambitious. Workloads and expectations of experts are sometimes too high, given that local counterparts may not have the level of commitment or the skills required to complete the work program within the deadlines specified.

Appropriate legislation and enforcement

2.79 The delay in recent years in enacting the statistics law has adversely affected the overall statistical system. While the NIS is technically independent in producing and disseminating statistics, other RGC statistics units are not necessarily so. Technical independence is a fundamental prerequisite for objective, good-quality, relevant, and timely official statistics. The NIS requires the authority under law to establish the Statistics Advisory Council, the Statistics Coordination Committee, and other formal coordination arrangements. The NIS and RGC statistics units involved in business registration and establishment survey activities need the backing of law to improve reporting and registration by businesses. Response rates for business and establishment collections can be as low as 10 to 20 percent, although NIS establishment surveys have generally higher response rates (about 70 percent).

2.80 Statistical legislation should ensure:

  • Autonomous budget allocations for statistics, thereby encouraging debate on better financing;
  • Reporting by the NIS and the Statistics Advisory Council to the government on statistical capacity building and outputs, thereby increasing accountability and transparency;
  • Data provider understanding that noncompliance will result in possible fines and imprisonment, thereby improving response rates and providing more accurate data reporting; and
  • Penalization of statistics officers who profit from or release confidential individual information, thereby building the trust of data providers.

2.81 However, even the best statistics law will fail to deliver the desired outcomes without proper law enforcement. Effective implementation of the current anti-corruption and judicial reforms is therefore essential.

Coordination mechanisms

2.82 Data coordination has improved significantly as a result of establishing informal arrangements. As mentioned above, the NIS has established technical working groups, with ADB assistance, for statistics legislation, agriculture statistics, environment and natural resources statistics, and foreign trade statistics. Statistics cooperation has also been expanded and improved among the NBC, NIS, ministries, and institutions in relation to data-sharing arrangements. The IMF MSA has assisted the NIS in improving the coordination of donor financing and TA for statistics capacity building for the MEF, MoP, NBC, and NIS. The MSA has also worked closely with the NIS/MoP on improving the coordination of TA provided by experts and volunteers from the various ADB, ESCAP, GTZ, IMF, JICA, JOCV, UNDP, UNFPT, UNICEF, and other organizations. Assistance has been provided to the authorities in coordinating ADB and IMF STA missions and in preparing ADB and IMF STA mission proposals.

2.83 However, the current formal coordination mechanisms between RGC institutions and ministries for statistical activities and capacity building have proven to be severely constrained. Communication among ministries about information sharing generally requires a written request by one minister to the other minister—a process that can typically take about a month to get the desired result. More formal arrangements, such as the Statistics Coordination Committee and specific provisions in the subdecrees requiring direct information exchange and cooperation between the NIS and RGC statistics units, will help reduce turnaround times.

2.84 The level of decentralization is also a significant constraint. For example, in addition to the MAFF statistics office, six other departments and offices within the ministry are involved in statistical collection and dissemination. Similar levels of decentralization in the MEF and some other ministries make coordination more difficult. It also means much duplication in statistical infrastructure and statistics produced, and that scarce resources are being spread too thin. The law includes an article specifying the need for ministries to establish centralized statistics units. This should improve capacity within each ministry and make TA and skills transfer more cost effective and easier to implement.

Use of technology

2.85 A final success factor contributing to more rapid statistical development is the use of technology. Computerization of statistical activities in the NIS Central Office and major provinces and statistics units in the CDC, MAFF, MEF, MoC, MOEYS, MoP, MoT, and NBC has vastly improved the quality and timeliness of official statistics. In addition, establishing the National Information Development Authority in 2001, with TA from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), contributed to building IT capacity for other line ministries.


The author is IMF multisector statistics advisor in Cambodia. The IMF is grateful to the Australian Bureau of Statistics for releasing Mr. Abbasi to take this assignment. His assignment in Cambodia is financed by the Administered Account for Selected Fund Activities—Japan (JSA).


NIS, Socioeconomic Survey of Cambodia, 1993–94.


General elections were held in May 1993, July 1998, and July 2003.


NIS, Socioeconomic Survey of Cambodia, 1996.


NIS, July 2003 National Accounts of Cambodia, 1993 to 2002.

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