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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ITC defends its use of funds, claiming silk weavers profiting

ITC defends its use of funds, claiming silk weavers profiting

ITC defends its use of funds, claiming silk weavers profiting

121220 07
A woman weaves silk on a loom at a small-scale producer in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

The International Trade Centre (ITC) yesterday rejected criticisms over the misuse of expenses and funds for a sector-wide Cambodian silk project, saying its approach was appropriate and well managed.

Mao Thora, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, publicly criticised the ITC during a seminar on Monday, saying that silk industry development has been weak despite funds being provided to the ITC to develop silk works in Cambodia.

Raimund Moser, associate trade promotion officer for the ITC, said the budget for the two-year Cambodian Sector-Wide Silk Project, which was implemented between March 2010 and March 2012, was slightly over $814,000.

“Yearly implementation is about $400,000,” he said. “A big amount of the money has gone to the Silk Association in Cambodia for Khmer Silk Villages who are working on our behalf with a $240,000 grant [for the two years],” he said.

The rest of the money was spent on activities such as consulting on the project, reinforcing the design capacity of the weavers, and quality control of the products. “We achieved the result we wanted to achieve,” said Moser. “We have increased the income of silk weavers by over 30 per cent,” he said, adding that along with the funds, the ITC created channels for the weaving industry to increase market sales.

According to the ITC’s Activity Completion Report, the project met its targets because the average income of weavers increased by 39 per cent, while the target was 40 per cent and sales rose by 43 per cent, while the project’s target was 30 per cent.

Moser said that during the project implementation, 75 workshops were conducted for projects involving 39 communities across the country, with 600 weaving households. “We see good results, so we are very pleased with that in spite of growing prices for raw materials for silk,” he said. “I can’t comment on Mao Thora’s statement because we would like to meet him.”

The ITC’s activity report found that Cambodian weaving industry comprises around 20,000 silk weavers who collectively contribute nearly $25 million to Cambodia’s GDP each year. “These figures represent a significant achievement considering the price surge for imported silk yarn which occurred during the implementation of our project and reduced the profit margin for weavers substantially,” the ITC’s report said.

Pheanuroth Sisowath, senior technical adviser to the ITC, said funding countries such as New Zealand are always careful with expense procedures. “We have international standards and highly developed controls for spending; that’s why they trust us.”  

Seung Kimyonn, executive director of the Cambodian Craft Corporation, whose products are exported mainly to the EU and sold in local markets to tourists, said he supports Mao Thora’s comments because, in his view, no progress has been made in the silk sector.

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