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Corruption 'aid barrier'

Corruption 'aid barrier'

Dear Editor,

During the four years since our previous visit to Cambodia there have been many changes

for the better in this beautiful country.

The economy shows some hopeful signs of revival as the shadows of the Khmer Rouge

past are erased.

In addition, we were encouraged by the Phnom Penh Post report in April regarding

efforts being made by parliament to reduce corruption in government-associated activities.

Continued reform is essential for future development of the country.

We came to Cambodia on this trip to conduct some humanitarian work in support of

schools for the poor, and to aid with the establishment of small enterprises among

Cambodia's poor. We, like many in the world who are aware of Cambodia's tragic Khmer

Rouge years, have a desire to help the people of this country through donations and

expertise.

However, we found that barriers to providing help to Cambodians are so severe that

many people and organizations are discouraged, and the aid they would freely offer

is diverted to other needy countries where fewer roadblocks are encountered.

A primary barrier is the import of goods and equipment. It is well known that corruption

at the seaports results in long delays and requires large pay-offs to officials in

order to import even charitable goods. Many charitable organizations rightly refuse

to pay bribes. They cannot violate their principles by supporting corruption and,

therefore, chose to send their aid elsewhere. This directly harms Cambodia's poor,

but eventually also harms all levels of the country's economy.

The world business community is also acutely aware of the import barriers.

We recently heard business people in the USA state that Cambodia cannot be ranked

as a Third World country. Rather it is a Fourth World country because of

its official and unofficial barriers to import and export. This poor view of the

potential for business investment will continue to harm Cambodia economically until

the government effectively moves to stop corruption.

Possibly the single most effective step toward an improved Cambodian economy would

be for the government to hire incorruptible officials to run the port, pay them a

decent wage, and allow commerce to proceed as it does in other countries. If parliament

can continue its initiative on curbing corruption at the seaport and other points

of entry, Cambodia has a chance to shed its

Fourth World image.

- Richard S. Criddle, JoAn D. Criddle, Logan Utah, USA

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