A major new World Bank report released at its annual meeting in Singapore on Friday indicates that governance in Cambodia deterioriated in 2005.
The worsening situation has placed Cambodia on a separate list of 26 “fragile states.” That list also includes Haiti, Burma, Zimbabwe, Congo, the Sudan, Palestine, and Laos. Cambodia was not on the list in 2003 and 2004.
The World Bank measures the quality of government of 213 countries annually based on internal assessments and surveys conducted by business consultants and by organizations ranging from The Economist magazine to Reporters Without Borders.
Scores were assigned ranging from 2.5 for perfect governance to -2.5 for the worst possible governance. Six areas were assessed: voice and accountability, stability, effectiveness of civil service, quality of regulations, rule of law and corruption.
Voice and accountability, also called human rights, have, according to the report, declined in Cambodia to -0.94 in 2005, down from -0.89 in 2004. Political stability also worsened according to the report, down to -0.44 from -0.33 in 2004.
Government effectiveness is also down to -0.94 from -0.89 in 2004—the worst result since 1998. Regulatory Quality is down to
-0.62 from -0.57, the worst such ranking since 1996, when the survey began.
Rule of law, however, is about the same at -1.13 while corruption has worsened to -1.12 from -0.98.
“The governance indicators are largely based on perceptions about Cambodia as a whole, which tend to be, by and large, rather negative,” World Bank country manager Nisha Agrawal wrote in an email.
Driving the worsening perception are “unabated” land-grabbing by the rich and powerful and enormous, illegal land concessions, she said.
Agrawal said that it was important to highlight reform efforts the government has made. Since 2005, import and export times and costs were reduced, and there is less leakage from the budget and greater tax collection, she noted.
“Perceptions take time to change,” she added.
World Bank country economist Robert Taliercio said that despite the indicators report, the Bank’s internal assessment considers Cambodia to be in the process of transitioning out of the “fragile states” category.
Prime Minster Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yentieng said that Cambodia was reforming. ‘‘We don’t know what score we are, but we are in a reforming process,” he said. “I did not think we had the number one score, if we were number one, we wouldn’t be criticized three times a day like this.”