An executive of Cambodia’s garment industry, the country’s biggest export earner, said Monday that prime minister Hun Sen’s anti-corruption reforms had failed to stop officials from demanding bribes.
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said he was “sad to report that not much improvement has been made to reduce the amount of unofficial fees that we have to pay.”
He spoke at a one-day government forum for local and foreign investors also attended by Hun Sen, who vowed to continue fighting corruption and inefficiency.
Cambodia’s foreign aid donors say rampant corruption is hampering development as the country struggles to rebuild after decades of war and unrest.
Van Sou Ieng said top government officials have made efforts to curb graft and streamline import and export procedures, but he accused lower-ranking officials of insisting on illicit payments.
“For many officials, these unofficial payments have become so integrated into their way of life that they no longer view it as unofficial but rather as official payments,” he said.
Hun Sen said the government was working with the World Bank to reduce opportunities for kickbacks by cutting the number of government agencies inspecting shipments to one from four.
“We shall further exert our effort to reduce unofficial fees, streamline bureaucratic procedures, and processing time and curb smuggling,” said Hun Sen.
Cambodia’s garment and textile industry employs some 270,000 workers and accounted for about 76% of the country’s export earnings in 2003. But it faces an uncertain future since the World Trade Organisation ended preferential tariffs to garments from developing countries on January 1.
Since January, 11 factories have closed and another 20 suspended operations, putting 20,000 people out of work, said Ken Loo, the garment association’s secretary general. But 15 new factories have opened during the same period, he said.