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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Cash machine boost for Cambodia
By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Central market in Phnom Penh
Cambodia has a long way to go in terms of growth
A new bank is opening in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries.

ANZ Royal Bank is a joint venture between major Australian bank ANZ and Cambodian family-run company Royal Group.

The financial services industry in the country has suffered from a poor reputation, with a number of banks collapsing in recent years.

Invitations to the opening take the form of a cash-machine card - the bank has brought internationally connected ATMs to Cambodia for the first time.

There are three events in Phnom Penh to mark the official opening day. The climax will be a grand banquet in the evening, attended by leading politicians and business people.

Trust eroded

The new bank is starting life with all the fanfare it can muster. But for Cambodian savers and businesses, the main issue is confidence.

A bank with significant international backing has been missing from Cambodia since peace returned to the country. Bank collapses in recent years have eroded faith in local institutions.

More than half of the country's population lives on less than $1 a day
International aid accounts for nearly 50% of the national budget
A World Bank survey suggested more than 80% of companies say they have suffered because of corruption

The bank's chairman Kith Meng is one of the most powerful men in Cambodia.

In his position as chairman and chief executive of Royal Group he has close connections to the government and interests including telecoms and television.

"Banking is important to the development of economics to help businesses grow, and to give them the confidence of banking [without] bankruptcy," he said.

The launch comes just a day after a World Bank report criticised the slow pace of financial reform in Cambodia.

The organisation said the lack of a credit rating agency and the difficulty of raising loans were major impediments to growth in the private sector.

Since branches of ANZ Royal Bank began opening in Cambodia several weeks ago, more than 1,300 customers have opened accounts and more than $31m dollars have been deposited.

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