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Economist Says Asean Likely To Miss Key Deadlines for Integration

Cambodian government security forces walk in front of the Council of Ministers building as they patrol along a street ahead of the 21st ASEAN Summit and other related summits in Phnom Penh, file photo.
Southeast Asian countries are likely to miss a deadline for the economic integration of Asean in 2015, a leading economist says.

Jayat Menon, an economist for the Asian Development Bank, told reporters in Phnom Penh Wednesday that Asean countries are behind on key targets for integration that may not come until 2020 or even 2025.

“Every country will miss the deadline,” he said. “Not only Cambodia, but even developed countries like Singapore.”

The ADB recently published a report, “A Work in Progress,” which says the deadline of 2015 “should not be viewed as a hard target.” Rather, it says, 2015 should be viewed as “a milestone year—a measure of a work in progress.”

All 10 members of Asean are trying to streamline economic policies that would allow for workers and goods to move freely among them. Some countries, though, have more work to do than others.

Burma, Cambodia and Laos all must speed up reforms if they want to catch up to their regional neighbors, Menon said. “Cambodia is doing well, but it must tackle issues of corruption and anti-competitive practices,” he said.

Pen Sorasak, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Cambodia is making gains, but it needs more time. “We still lack human resources and specialists to speed up our performance for this upcoming integration,” he said.

Chheang Vannarith, senior fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said it is unclear when Asean’s economic interests will fully integrate. But Cambodia will likely need at least four more years to catch up with its neighbors, he said.