Researching the politics of development



The political economy of growth in Cambodia


The political economy determinants of economic growth in Cambodia are studied using a political settlements approach, buttressed by conceptual innovations surrounding the study of growth phases, bureaucratic capacity, and the character of the climate for investment.


Cambodia provides an Asian example of a dominant party political settlement that is closer to, though not yet in, the ‘mature growth maintenance’ phase.

Research questions

The study aks the following retrospective question:

  1. To what extent can past growth phases (e.g. from pre-1998 collapse and moderate growth to post-1998 miracle growth) be explained by our core hypotheses?

It also addresses a set of prospective questions:

  1. Where is the country now on the deals-rules continuum?
  2. Where is growth likely to come from in the product space?
  3. Where are the economic elites placed vis-a-vis the product space? What are their links with the political elite? How interested are they in pushing for better institutions and greater state capacity?

Methods and research design

The main sources are National Accounts, local think-tank surveys, newspaper reports and other secondary sources, and interviews. These methods are combined with a previous political settlements mapping to provide a characterisation of political, state and economic elites that matter for economic growth.

How does this project fit within ESID’s research agenda?

Contributes to ESID’s aim to fill the gap in the literature that focuses on ‘what’ policies and institutions are conducive to growth, with limited understanding of the ‘how’, that is, how political processes shape the emergence and maintenance of these policies and institutions emerge. It addresses all three core research questions.


Lead ResearcherTim KelsallCambodia Development Research Institute
ResearcherSeiha HengCambodia Development Research Institute


Tim Kelsall and Seiha Heng. 2014. ‘The political settlement and economic growth in Cambodia‘. ESID Working Paper 37.