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IMF Head Makes First Visit To Cambodia

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speak during a meeting at the Prime Minister's office in central Phnom Penh December 2, 2013. Lagarde is visiting Cambodia for two days in the first of a three-leg visit to Asia. REUTERS
The International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, began the first day of an official visit to Cambodia on Monday.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen said after an hourlong meeting between the two that Cambodia hopes to absorb an increasing number of investors through improved health care, education and financial reform.

“Cambodia has maintained strong economic growth, and the IMF projected that Cambodia will have more than 7 percent economic growth this year,” the spokesman, Eang Sophallet, told reporters after Monday’s meeting.

Lagarde’s two-day visit comes not long after the high-level trip of Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. She is expected to meet with economic officials, including Deputy Prime Minister and former finance minister Keat Chhon, as well as women business leaders and others from the private and social sectors, the IMF said in a statement. She will also visit Burma and South Korea on her trip.

Lagarde encouraged the government to continue reforms while working alongside the IMF, Eang Sophallet said.

IMF recommendations to Cambodia helped the country avoid the 2008 financial crisis, and the IMF provides millions of dollars in aid and loans to Cambodia each year, he said. During the meeting, Hun Sen praised the importance of the IMF’s role in Cambodia and called the partnership between the two “quite important for the country’s economic growth and macro economy,” Eang Sophallet said.

Opposition officials said Monday that corruption has meant the abuse of international aid.

Yem Ponharith, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said Lagarde’s visit would allow her to “observe the economic situation in Cambodia on the ground and to investigate the rampant corruption in aid from the international community.”