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World Bank Chief: Corruption Costing Cambodia

The new president of the World Bank ended a visit to Cambodia this week identifying corruption as a top problem as the country's economy scrambles forward.

Robert Zoellick, whose brief stay in Cambodia was part of an Asia-Pacific tour, his first in his new position, said corruption cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

"I talked briefly with Prime Minister Hun Sen on strengthening governance, building institutional infrastructure so resources are used well and [so] the huge annual international support of $690 million can be maintained, and countering the challenges of corruption that cost Cambodia between $300 million and $500 million per year," Zoellick said after his meetings.

Eang Sophaleth, a spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the prime minister had assured the World Bank chief his government was committed to reforms under the Bank's recommendations.

Zoellick also said Hun Sen had stressed the government's commitment to curbing illegal logging, a longstanding issue between Cambodia and donors, including the World Bank.

Critics charge that illegal logging is perpetrated by a Cambodian elite who have ties themselves to the prime minister.

Cambodia unduly suffers thanks to corruption and the lack of law, said Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development.

"We need to have laws that govern all standards, high standards," she said.