The Impact of the Past on the Present
Cambodia, then, like so many other nations in the developing world, is an agricultural country, and, in terms of the cash incomes of its people, desperately poor.
In the past, Cambodia was able to earn foreign exchange to pay for imported goods by selling agricultural surpluses-of rice and corn, for example-or plant crops, such as pepper, rubber, and cotton. Its normal patterns of trade were broken up in the wars of the 1970's. When the fighting died down, Cambodian trade became lively again, but more informal, which benefited many individual traders but deprived the government of money it needed to pay for essential services, like electricity, schools, water, and highways. There was some question at the end of the 1980's if Cambodia would ever be able to trade its way back into the kind of prosperity that it had enjoyed in earlier times.
Of course, the word "prosperity" is a relative one. Even in the peaceful 1960's, Ca...