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Lagarde taken to task by HRW over silence

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde should have taken a stance against the endemic corruption plaguing the Kingdom during her visit this month if “the IMF’s message on corruption is to be more than rhetoric”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

In an opinion posted on the New York-based rights watchdog’s website, senior researcher on international financial institutions Jessica Evans said Lagarde failed to “even obliquely” address the Kingdom’s issues with corruption during her first visit heading the IMF, a visit that came during an ongoing political crisis.

“Lagarde missed a major opportunity in Cambodia to highlight governance problems, but she can right this by speaking out when she returns to headquarters,” Evans said.

The opinion points out that the IMF’s silence is particularly noticeable considering the country’s ranking in the annual global index released by Transparency International, which pegged Cambodia’s public sector as the most corrupt in ASEAN.

Indeed, in a blog post published on the IMF’s global economy forum just a day after her departure, Lagarde applauds authorities’ efforts.

“I believe they are resolved to stay on the road of macroeconomic stability and economic growth, to invest in skills and education, and to lay down a firm foundation of good governance,” she wrote at the time.

That sort of muted response to the Kingdom’s endemic corruption, affecting nearly every strata of society, does more harm than good, independent analyst Kem Ley said yesterday.

“This culture of silence so often demonstrated by the international community or United Nations bodies often ignores corruption for the sake of diplomacy instead of [taking a public stance] advocating for stronger government transparency and accountability.”

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