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Cambodia Lagging Behind Neighbors in Economic Competitiveness

Cambodian farmers cut rice at a rice paddy farm during the harvest season at Sala Kumrou, Puresat province.
Cambodian farmers cut rice at a rice paddy farm during the harvest season at Sala Kumrou, Puresat province.
PHNOM PENH - While other countries in the region have advanced their ranking in business competitiveness, Cambodia slid this year from 85th to 88th, according to Global Competitiveness Index.

The index, released Thursday by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, shows Cambodia’s competitiveness is behind it neighbors when it comes to attracting the flow of investment and in generating economic growth.

Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam all fared better.

The index measures the ease of doing business in a country through 12 different criteria, including infrastructure, eduction, and financial markets development.

Singapore maintained a strong second-place position amid 148 countries globally, behind Switzerland. Other than Cambodia, seven other Asean countries managed to improve their rankings, between one and 12 places. Laos and Burma, added just this year, landed on either side of Cambodia, at 81st and 139th, respectively.

Corruption remains a top problem for Cambodia, according to businesses surveyed for the index, along with a tangled bureaucracy, a lack of skilled labor and poor infrastructure. Minor problems reported include policy instability, access to finance and poor tax development.

Cheam Yiep, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, would not comment directly on the report, but he said the government has taken steps to improve its competitiveness and to catch up with other countries.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said the index was an accurate reflection of the reality on the ground.

The lack of competitiveness could be a larger problem as Asean comes closer to economic integration, in 2015, when Cambodia will have to face off with its neighbors, he said.