Despite passing a long-anticipated anticorruption law in March, Cambodia has made no improvement this year in its perceived level of corruption, according to an annual ranking of countries by Transparency International that maintained Cambodia’s position among the world’s most corrupt nations.
Cambodia earned 2.1 out of a possible 10 points, placing it at a rank of 154th of 178 nations, on a par with the Central African Republic, the Comoros Islands, Congo-Brazzaville, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Russia and Tajikistan, according to the Berlin-based NGO’s corruption perception index, released yesterday.
The only Asean country to a score lower than Cambodia was Burma, ranked at equal 176th with Afghanistan at a score of 1.4. Thailand was placed 78th while Singapore tied for first place with Denmark and New Zealand, scoring 9.3.
Om Yentieng, the government’s anticorruption czar, declined to comment yesterday. However Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said: “We have a good law and…the government’s commitment is in place to fight corruption together.”
In 2009 Cambodia scored 2.0, but according to Transparency International a score must change by at least 0.3 points before a change in perception of corruption can be considered to have taken place.
The 2010 results are drawn from 13 surveys and assessments carried out by international organizations including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
Ran Liao, Senior Program Coordinator in Transparency International’s Asia Pacific Department said by telephone from Berlin yesterday that he was not surprised that Cambodia’s new anti-corruption law had not immediately affected Cambodia’s performance.
“Usually for any policy reform or new law or any campaign to produce an impact or change people’s perception it takes a few years,” he said. “So [the anti-corruption law] has not refracted the Cambodian score.”
Gordon Peters, senior consultant for Emerging Markets Consulting in Cambodia, said yesterday that corruption could be an issue for companies investing here.
“EMC recently completed a research study where we surveyed over 100 foreign investors in Cambodia and for the companies who weren’t satisfied with their investment, corruption came up as one of things that investors cared about and were unhappy with.”
For one Cambodian businessman, corruption does not warrant such a low score.
“I acknowledge there is corruption but it is not serious like this,” said Mong Reththy, chairman of Mong Reththy group. He explained that some businessmen offered informal payments to some governmental institutions to speed up their investment process.
“I don’t want to accuse this act as corruption but it’s the way to facilitate” trade, he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that he considered Cambodia’a position on the index fair but that he was optimistic that tangible advances in tackling corruption would be made once the anti-graft law came into effect next year.
“Even though we have passed the law against corruption the [anti-corruption unit] has not yet started their operations…. So I think maybe it is appropriate,” he said. “I think that after they start, corruption shall be reduced.”
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey and Clancy McGilligan)