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Economic body for 'reliable data'

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

issues.

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

of 2006.

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."

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