Friday, December 6, 2013

Corruption in Cambodia

Corruption in Cambodia

I am sure all of us are aware that the latest Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International's 2013 scored Cambodia at 20 points, which "0" means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and "100" means it is perceived as very clean.   This index translates that our country takes the honor of being named the "highly corrupt country."  In fact, Cambodia was ranked 160 out of 175 listed countries in 2013 a fall from three places from its 2012 ranking of 157 (  Regionally speaking, we are the worst among ASEAN Ten Member States. Once again, we are on the map for becoming famous as one of the most corrupt country in the world.  

So what happens here?  We don't need a rocket scientist to explain this.  Just look around us everyday, our country is engrained with corruption and political patronage (see my article:  Corruption has become a cancer in Cambodian society. It is widespread everywhere and at all levels, in schools, courts, hospitals, public and private services,.. "The big eats big, the small eats small."  Weak institutions, governance, poor business climate (lack of partiality and predictability), poverty, class inequality, injustice and immorality are some the breeding ground for corruption.  Too many people across the country are still living in extreme poverty and the economic growth is not inclusive.

So what is the solution? Let’s be truthful and blunt.  In Cambodia, the most common cause of corruption is believed to be a combination of enormous discretion and low accountability.  There comes a time when we have to accept that the system is not working despite the passage of anti-corruption law in 2010 and a special unit to deal with this problem.   The government has promised repeatedly to stamp out corruption but the report shows that all the pledges are not back up by effective actions.  Concrete actions are needed more than words of wisdom and empty promises to tackle this contagious vice. Strengthening good governance and applying rule of law in leadership and state governance as well as maintaining integrity and providing justice are the remedy to fight corruption.  Giving ALL civil servants a living wage will improve their corrupt behavior and preventing them from taking bribes. The prosperity in Cambodia must be inclusive by providing opportunities for all and not only to the well-connected officials and elites.  Developing public awareness and providing quality education will also help improve the value of honesty and personal integrity.  Gandhi offers a solution as well, "Be the change you wish to see in the world (Cambodia)."

To move forward, I would like to end by quoting Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International, " It is time to stop those who get away with acts of corruption. The legal loopholes and lack of political will in government facilitate both domestic and cross-border corruption, and call for our intensified efforts to combat the impunity of the corrupt.”

Let's hope that Cambodia will do better next year with another promise made by our Prime Minister Hun Sen to eliminate corruption (Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech on September 2013) by carrying out the deep institutional reforms.