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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cambodian economy to slow in 2009: World Bank

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's economic growth will slow to 4.9 percent next year amid the global financial crisis, less than half the country's expansion
pace of previous years, the World Bank said Wednesday.

"Cambodia, compared to many other countries in the region, is even more open to the external environment," Stephane Guimbert, the World Bank's senior economist for Cambodia, told a press briefing.

The Bank said Cambodia's economy averaged 11.1 percent growth from 2004 to 2007, but due to lower demand from other countries for its main industries - garments, construction and tourism - it has slowed to 6.7 percent this year.

Vikram Nehru, the World Bank's chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific, said the financial crisis has also come at an unfortunate time for the impoverished country's banking system.

"This particular crisis hit when bank credit was growing very rapidly, and now with the sudden decline of tourism and export earnings this is going to obviously hit the banking system as well," Nehru said by video from Tokyo.
"Cambodia was unlucky to be caught in the crisis at this particular time."

Unveiling the World Bank's update on the economies of East Asia, Guimbert said he believed the Cambodian government had been right to address slowing growth by including fiscal stimulus in its national budget for next year.

The Cambodian parliament this week approved a 1.8-billion-dollar budget for 2009 which included increased spending on education, infrastructure and agriculture.

Guimbert added that he thought Cambodia needed to improve the competitiveness of its garment industry by addressing labour disputes and facilitating trade, and that the country must invest more in agriculture.

"Although the price of rice has declined since May and June, it is still higher than before," Guimbert said, recommending farmers invest in fertiliser to increase their crop yields.

Despite the recent double-digit economic growth, underemployment, where someone's work earns only a meagre return, remains high in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries. Some 35 percent of the country's 14 million people live on less than 50 cents a day.
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Cambodia to fight corruption at genocide tribunal

Hybrid Tribunal is made from Human element of white men and Cambodians, hopefully the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will be cleaned of corruptions. But so far any White men who didn't know about acting corruption, Cambodia had taught them and they had been adapting very well. The UN should look into those white men who are in the Tribunal very closely.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The United Nations and the government of Cambodia have agreed in principle to strengthen measures to prevent corruption among staff at the country's genocide tribunal.

The partners said in a statement Wednesday that they would meet to ensure the tribunal is administered in a "transparent, fair and efficient manner."

Cambodian personnel at the U.N.-assisted tribunal have been accused of graft twice in the past two years.

The tribunal will try senior members of the communist Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies caused 1.7 million deaths when the group was in power in 1975-79.

The statement was issued after a meeting Tuesday between U.N. legal affairs expert Peter Taksoe-Jensen and Cambodian officials.
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Russia cancels 70 percent of debt to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Russia has agreed to cancel most of Cambodia's $1.5 billion debt owed to Moscow since the 1980s, an official said Tuesday.

The vice chairman of Russian Parliament, Valery A. Yazev, told the Cambodian government during a visit last month that up to 70 percent of the debt was being canceled by Moscow, said Cheam Yeap, the chairman of the Cambodian parliament's finance commission.

Cheam Yeap was replying to questions by lawmakers in parliament during a debate on Cambodia's $1.8 billion national budget for 2009, which was approved Tuesday by the parliament's lower house.

During the 1980s, Cambodia was a close Russian ally and relied heavily on Moscow for weapons, food and infrastructure equipment.

Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries and is heavily reliant on foreign aid.

Cambodia also owes the US government over $300 million, Cheam Yeap said, adding that most of it was borrowed in the 1970s.

He said Cambodia has asked the US government many times to reduce the debt or cancel it, but there has been no response from Washington.

Deputy Finance Minister Ouk Rabun, also speaking during the budget debate, said Cambodia owed more than $2.3 billion to various countries. This amount does not include the amounts owed to the US and the forgiven Russian debts.

In addition, the International Monetary Fund also canceled last year an $82 million debt owed by Cambodia.

Ouk Rabun said most of the debt, which is in the form of soft loans, was spent on infrastructure and social welfare projects.

"We can't leave those broken roads without repairs," he said.

Cambodia's 2009 budget includes about $400 million to be spent on health, education, agriculture and other social welfare projects. More than $200 million will be spent on national defense and security. - AP
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Cambodian Prince Ranariddh appointed chief advisor to King Sihamoni

PHNOM PENH, Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh has been appointed King Norodom Sihamoni's chief advisor, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily on Wednesday quoted royal sources as saying.

King Sihamoni appointed his half-brother in a royal decree dated Dec. 6, with the prince's new position holding a rank equivalent to prime minister, said Oum Daravuth, member of the Royal Palace cabinet.

The appointment came as the culmination of months of speculation that the prince would abandon his political career fora role in the Royal Palace.

Ranariddh used to head the royalist Funcinpec Party and served as prime minister of the first government of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

He was dumped as party president in late 2006 and then sued by Funcinpec for embezzling money while selling party estate.

He received sentence over the lawsuit, stayed overseas for months, and finally escaped imprisonment due to a pardon from the king.
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