Russian Delegation Discusses Debt Reduction With Gov’t Officials

A delegation from the Russian Federation led by Duma Vice Presi­dent Valery Yazev met with Cambo­d­­ian government officials this week, in the highest-level meetings be­tween the two countries since Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Russia last year.

In meetings with Senate Presi­dent Chea Sim, National Assembly Pre­sident Heng Samrin, and other Cambodian officials, the Russian delegation discussed cultural ex­change, energy, trade, investment and tax laws, debt relief and other economic issues, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap and government ad­viser Koam Kosal said Thursday.

According to Cheam Yeap, who is chairman of the National As­sembly’s Commission on Finance, the Russians agreed to provide more than 150 scholarships for Cambodian university students pursuing Masters and Doctorate de­grees, particularly for those studying oil engineering and law.

“The Russians also raised the is­sue of nuclear energy because it is more useful than hydropower,” Cheam Yeap said.

Cheam Yeap said that the Rus­sians made a verbal agreement to re­duce Cambodia’s $1.52 billion debt to Russia by 70 percent, de­creasing the debt to $457 million.

Cheam Yeap was apparently re­ferring to the standard 70 percent discount Russia applies to all debts grant­ed be­fore 1992, an arrangement Russia adopted after joining the Paris Club of major creditors in 1997.

According to 2007 IMF and World Bank re­ports, Cambodia and Russia had al­ready agreed upon this standard dis­count in earlier talks on debt forgiveness.

The $1.52 billion debt consists of money borrowed from the Russian Federation’s predecessor, the Soviet Union, during the 1970s and 1980s.

Koam Kosal, adviser to Heng Samrin, said that the Russian delegation did not discuss Cambodia’s debt in their meeting with Heng Samrin. “The government has a policy of changing the direction of the debt, which means either reducing it or investing it in other sectors, such as infrastructure,” Koam Kosal said.

Reached by phone, Russian Em­bassy officials said they were not pre­pared to comment on the delegation’s visit.

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