Cambodia is now ranked as being perceived by investors as Southeast Asia’s most corrupt country, surpassing Laos and Burma on Transparency International’s annual corruption index.
Cambodia ranked 160 of 175 countries in the report, with its index score a mere 20 out of 100. That’s two points lower than last year, marking the first year Cambodia has fared worse than its regional neighbors on the index.
The index is derived from surveys of perceived corruption by investors and others in the private sector concerning the public sector and is undertaken each year by a partnership of seven international institutions, including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
“The government should not consider this as a critique, but as a mirror for improvement,” Ok Serei Sopheak, board director for Transparency International Cambodia, told VOA Khmer Tuesday.
The least-corrupt countries worldwide were Denmark, New Zealand and Finland. In the region, Singapore was ranked fifth, Brunei 38th and Malaysia 53rd overall.
Cambodia’s ranking comes despite the passage of an anti-corruption law and a specialized unit to tackle the problem.
“The government needs to enforce the anti-corruption law without exception,” said Preab Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia. “It needs to enhance its auditive and investigating systems to increase accountability. Third, raise awareness in the public to put pressure on and report crimes of corruption. If there is just political rhetoric and threats without any concrete measures, there is no hope for any improvement.”
This year’s lower ranking for Cambodia could be a result of the country’s post-election political crisis, which worries investors and erodes their trust, Preab Kol said.
Neither Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, nor Phay Siphan, government spokesman, could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Cambodia consistently scores poorly on the annual global index. And the corruption problem is not lost on its international donors.
Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who visited Cambodia this week, told a group of students at a local university that Cambodia needs stronger institutions and governance. “It needs a better business climate, based on impartiality and predictability,” she said.
Preab Kol said a decrease in foreign investment in the country could occur if the corruption issue is not addressed.