The Economic Institute of Cambodia has rejected the government’s claim that it is a tool of the political opposition, in a news release issued Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning a speech by US Ambassador Carol Rodley, in which she claimed that the Cambodian government loses up to $500 million in public money every year because of corruption.
The ministry’s statement speculated that Ms Rodley had derived her figures “based on a biased assessment and without any proof invented by so-called Economic Institute of Cambodia belonging to the opposition party with the real intention to publicly defame and discredit the Royal Government of Cambodia.”
In reply, the EIC’s statement maintained that “EIC has always been a completely independent institution from any influential groups, either in the public sector or the private sector. We have at all times abided by the academic and scientific rigor that is expected of any research institute.”
It continued to say that “EIC, as an institution, is also in no manner affiliated to any political party and [does] not discriminate against its staff’s political preferences.”
EIC President Sok Hach couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
When asked Thursday if the SRP is in any way connected to the EIC, opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua replied: “Not at all.”
She added that, “the government is trying to…discredit the institutions that provide sound and useful information to the public.”
The connection made by the Foreign Ministry between the EIC and Ms Rodley’s speech is most likely related to a 2006 study, in which the EIC estimated that the government could have lost $400 million in uncollected taxes in 2005.
That report, based on a survey of 1,200 businesses, stated that the government was able to collect only about 25 percent of potential tax revenue in 2005 because of unofficial payments made to government officials in order to avoid paying taxes.
However, US Embassy spokesman John Johnson confirmed on Monday that Ms Rodley’s speech was based on a 2004 study by the US Agency for International Development that estimated Cambodia loses between $300 million and $500 million each year to corruption. Those figures were attributed to unnamed informants.
Mr Johnson said Thursday that the US embassy had no further comment about the ambassador’s speech.