Report Paints Poor Picture On Governance

A World Bank report on governance released today finds the Cambodian government less effective, and the quality of property rights, courts and police worse than in any other Asean nation except Burma.

The report scored and ranked 212 countries and territories in six key governance indicators: voice and accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption.

Worldwide, the report draws from 35 data sources and reflects the view of tens of thousands of survey respondents from the public and private sectors.

Cambodia ranks in the 29th percentile of all nations worldwide in political stability, an improvement of 20 percentage points since 1996. And while Cambodia is ranked in the 31st percentile for regulatory quality it has shown a significant decline in that arena since 1996.

For every other governance indicator, the report places Cambodia in the bottom quarter worldwide and finds no substantial positive changes over the past decade. If anything, the report suggests corruption control may have worsened since 1996.

After 11 years, the Cambodian government’s implementation of the rule of law–measuring the quality of police, courts and enforcement of contracts and property rights–also remains unchanged and still worse than 86 percent of all governments worldwide, the report found.

Burma ranks below Cambodia in every governance indicator, but otherwise Cambodia ranks below the rest of Asean in controlling corruption, government effectiveness and rule of law.

The report’s authors are careful to state that the findings are based on subjective and perceptions-based data. But perceptions matter, the report adds, because “if citizens believe that the courts are inefficient or the police are corrupt, they are unlikely to avail themselves of their services” and enterprises make business decisions based “on their perceived view of the investment climate and the government’s performance.”

The World Bank’s acting country manager for Cambodia, Stephane Guimbert, said the report is valuable to researchers and foreign investors looking for long-term trends.

Guimbert noted that only one third of all 212 countries in the report showed any significant change in any governance indicator over the past decade. He also said that subtle changes, possibly even significant changes in a society, are not always calculable.

“This report doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive. It pretends to show how much we know and how much we don’t know,” Guimbert said by telephone Tuesday. “In terms of trends over time, it reflects that governance does not change quickly,” he added.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap called the World Bank results inaccurate. “The report does not reflect the truth,” he said by telephone Tuesday. As evidence of the government’s positive changes over the years, Cheam Yeap noted a recent report from the International Republican Institute that found 77 percent of all Cambodians believed the country was on the right track.

“There is corruption, but there are measures to prevent those issues,” he said.

“We reduced corruption, not increased. [The World Bank] can show the evidence to [court] prosecutors if they want to make a claim,” he added. Independent political observer Chea Vannath said she believed governance in Cambodia has not worsened over the past decade but added that the lack of significant positive changes was not surprising, particularly regarding corruption.

Since Untac, Chea Vannath said, international donors have focused on building infrastructure and integrating political factions, and not corruption, which she said is an insidious part of daily life.

“After all the fighting and civil wars, the issue was to get peace, rather than fight corruption. The issue of fighting corruption is quite new,” she said.

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