World News

Cambodia launches 5-year plan to tackle corruption

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia unveiled a five-year plan on Monday aimed at fighting rampant graft and attracting foreign investment in one of Asia’s poorest and most corrupt countries.

Among the measures are mandatory asset declarations for more than 100,000 state officials, anti-graft classes in schools and channels for the public to report allegations of corruption and extortion by government employees.

“There is no exception for anyone in this strategic plan,” Keo Remy, spokesman for the National Council for Anti-Corruption, told a news conference.

“The most important goal is to push for economic development ... we want to better promote investment, which would make our peoples’ livelihoods better.”

Cambodia was ranked the 158th most corrupt country in the world last year according to an index of 180 nations compiled by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International.

Analysts say graft has been a factor that has squeezed foreign investment in the Southeast Asian nation as it grapples with dire poverty exacerbated by decades of war and political upheaval including the 1975-79 “Killing Fields” regime.

Reforms are underway to improve infrastructure, boost energy production and develop the agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and mining sectors, but deep-rooted corruption limits investor interest.

“This should play a major role in improving public sector governance in Cambodia,” said Peter Brimble, an Asian Development Bank economist. “This is likely to strengthen the investment climate and enhance confidence among the business community.”

The International Monetary Fund said in a statement the measures “could significantly reduce the cost of doing businesses, and thereby improve Cambodia’s international competitiveness.”

Keo Remy said his council faced a huge task because corruption was deeply ingrained in society, but he said non-government organisations were proactive in identifying state bodies who were siphoning off money.

Vorn Pao, the president of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, told Reuters 11 groups would lodge a complaint with the council on Monday against tax officials whom he alleged were pocketing a $1 million (640,000 pounds) a year from vehicle road tax fees.

Editing by Martin Petty