The Economic Institute of Cambodia (EIC) was launched on October 29 with the promise
of providing reliable, independent economic data on Cambodia.
Some called it a landmark opportunity to open up economic deliberations to the public.
"This is the first time that Cambodia has a chance to set up a forum to publicly
discuss the economic issues in its own country," said International Monetary
Fund representative Robert Hagemann during the event held at the Cambodiana Hotel.
The policy and research institute used its inaugural conference to debate the opportunities
and pitfalls of the country's emerging market economy. Representatives from government,
donor agencies, NGOs and the EIC were on hand to answer questions and discuss economic
Cambodia's impending accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO), once the
National Assembly ratifies the agreement next March as expected, figured prominently
on the list of discussion topics at the conference.
"We have to bring Cambodia into the globalization process in the business of
trading," said Chea Peng Chheang, an MP and president of the Finance and Banking
Commission in the Senate.
He acknowledged that the country would have to apply much of its meager resources
to implementing the sweeping legal and financial reforms called for by the WTO. Intellectual
property laws, a commercial court, a secure transactions law, a criminal code, a
civil procedure code and dozens of other laws should be finalized by the beginning
However, the acting country manager for Oxfam-GB, Francis Perez, said Cambodia is
unlikely to realize the potential for free trade to alleviate poverty as it is practiced
by the WTO.
"The WTO is not a church," he said. "We come into it not with faith,
but with a high level of awareness of how it can benefit us."
Other forums held by the EIC offered information on the garment industry, energy
sector and the opportunities presented by Cambodia's nascent markets.
EIC director Sok Hach said the institute could promote better understanding of economic
issues throughout the country.
"The country has a lot of information, but this information is not widely known
to people throughout the country, as well as over the world," he said. "EIC
is very pleased to participate in providing and discussing this information."