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The cost of doing business

Cambodia’s growl too quiet to be Asia’s next tiger yet

Even by the often low standards of the world’s poorest nations, Cambodia is notoriously corrupt. The country ranks 162nd in watchdog Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and a 2006 study by the same organization describes corruption as having "pervaded almost every sector of the country". While much of this activity involves the taking of small bribes by officials for certificates, authorizations and the like, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that corruption has a negative effect on business and poses a threat to development.

Enter Aaron Bornstein, the softly spoken chief of party for the mainstreaming anti-corruption for equity project at Pact (an international NGO) and leader of the soon-to-launch Clean Business Initiative (CBI). Bornstein divides opinion in the Phnom Penh business community – some foreign investors and local players describe his anti-corruption crusading as over-ambitious and clearer on broad objectives than concrete details.

None, however, doubts his commitment to reducing corruption in business and he has made good progress in signing up 32 top companies to the CBI. The list includes ANZ Royal, Advanced Bank of Asia, Acleda, AMK Microfinance, Infinity insurance, as well as a range of audit companies, tourism companies, and even Cambodian Beverage Company, brewer of Coca-Cola.

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