Milford Bateman is a Visiting Professor of Economics at Juraj Dobrila University of Pula in Croatia, and an Adjunct Professor in Development Studies at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada. His main teaching, research, and consulting interests lie in the area of local economic development, particularly the developmental role of the local state, local finance, and all forms of cooperatives. His latest book, published in January 2019 by Routledge in cooperation with UNCTAD and co-edited with Stephanie Blankenburg and Richard Kozul-Wright, is entitled The Rise and Fall of Global Microcredit: Development, Debt and Disillusion.
Cambodia today is the site of one of the world’s largest microcredit sectors. While it is widely believed that the extension of microcredit to Cambodia’s poor should be cause for all-round celebration, this essay reveals disquieting evidence of a deeply problematic development intervention. Indebted to microcredit institutions, increasing numbers of Cambodia’s poor population have been forced to accept exploitative labour conditions in the garment and construction industry, driven to despair due to the loss of their land, and, in the worst cases, had no choice but to ‘sell’ themselves as bonded labour to brick kilns owners.