Corruption? In Cambodia?

A recent article in the Daily reported a drop in Cambodia’s rating in the Corruption Perceptions Index put out by a group called Transparency International. In fact, it stands at 162 out of 180 countries surveyed.

The same issue reported on another survey which measured the ease of doing business in various countries. This one, put out by the World Bank, rated our favourite little country at 145 out of 178. Cambodia was sandwiched in between the African countries of Gabon and Djbouti, and behind Iraq, which, obviously, calls the entire process into question. Easier to do business in Iraq than Cambodia?

In the corruption index, Cambodia’s rank puts it in the company of Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Turkmenistan and Venezuela. Venezuela? Got to be kidding, or extremely prejudiced to put Hugo Chavez’s country down at the bottom. Possibly, the framers of the survey, or the (most likely upper class) responders in Venezuela, or both, consider literacy drives and health care for all as indicators of corruption.

All of these types of surveys have their full-of-shit aspects. They also have their measure of validity, but they don’t always mean that much taken out of context and never tell the whole story.

A couple years back I had my own little scrape with running a business here. I found it to be very easy, indeed. A substantial bribe to the license guys and the process was smooth as can be. Good thing I had an employee with bargaining skills, otherwise I would have paid $200 rather than the $80 I wound up shelling out. It’s only because the guy before me had paid $80 that I understood the necessity of sticking to my guns.

In fact, I understand that the standard fee is $5, but that requires going down to the license bureau, filling out the paperwork, lots of waiting, etc. So, what could be easier than a little baksheesh to grease the wheels. Another 20 bucks to the local cops, which I was assured was a one-off, or at least once a year payment and they would be at my service should I ever have needed them.

Anyway, Cambodia’s public servants earn a pittance, nowhere near enough to live on, so what the hell, I don’t mind throwing a little money their way to make sure the job gets done in a timely manner.

That isn’t to say that corruption doesn’t have its costs. The garment industry, for instance, complains that 20% of their expenses go to corruption – which barely keeps them competitive.

Stan Kahn

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