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Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy

Sophal Ear

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October, 2012
Cloth, 208 pages, B&W Photos: 1, , Graphs: 4, , Figures: 3,
ISBN: 978-0-231-16112-1
$50.00 / £34.50

International intervention liberated Cambodia from pariah state status in the early 1990s and laid the foundations for more peaceful, representative rule. Yet the country’s social indicators and the integrity of its political institutions declined rapidly within a few short years, while inequality grew dramatically. Conducting an unflinching investigation into these developments, Sophal Ear reveals the pernicious effects of aid dependence and its perversion of Cambodian democracy.

International intervention and foreign aid resulted in higher maternal (and possibly infant and child) mortality rates and unprecedented corruption by the mid-2000s. Similarly, in example after example, Ear finds the more aid dependent a country, the more distorted its incentives to develop sustainably. Contrasting Cambodia’s clothing sector with its rice and livestock sectors and internal handling of the avian flu epidemic, he showcases the international community’s role in preventing Cambodia from controlling its national development.

A postconflict state unable to refuse aid, Cambodia is rife with trial-and-error donor experiments and their unintended consequences, such as bad governance and poor domestic and tax revenue performance—a major factor curbing sustainable, nationally owned growth. By outlining the terms through which countries can achieve better ownership of their development, Ear offers alternatives for governments still on the brink of collapse, despite ongoing dependence on foreign intervention and aid.

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About the Author

Sophal Ear is an assistant professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, where he teaches courses on postconflict reconstruction and political economy. Previously, he worked for the World Bank and the United Nations. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley, he arrived in the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of ten.

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