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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government short by more than $1b for development plan

Government short by more than $1b for development plan

Council of Ministers announces investments totaling $2.4 billion for

the next three years, but some officials say many projects at risk

HUNDREDS of development projects planned through 2011 could be in jeopardy due to shortfall of more than US$1 billion in funding, government officials have said following the Council of Ministers announcement last week of a $2.4 billion investment plan.

Some 552 projects, mostly in infrastructure like roads and bridges, have been targeted for the next three years, of which 239 have already been begun, the Ministry of Planning said Friday.

The government and donors have pledged $1.4 billion towards completing the projects.

But a slowing economy and record-high inflation could put many of the projects out of reach as the government struggles to make up the difference, said Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann.

WE GET A LOT OF HELP FROM DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS LIKE JAPAN, CHINA.

"I worry that Cambodia will not have enough budget to handle the development projects due to the slow economic situation, high inflation, corruption and problems with land seizures," he told the Post Sunday.

Sok Borisoth, director of the anti-corruption group Pact, said he hoped the government could obtain more international funds, but that this would depend on whether donors felt Cambodia was working towards reform.

The Kingdom remains one of the most corrupt in Asia, and routinely falls to the bottom of the list on global graft ratings.

Donors for years have demanded that the government approve anti-corruption legislation, which has yet to reach the National assembly for debate.

Nguon Nhel, first vice president of the National Assembly, acknowledged that an unknown number of projects might not be completed due to the funding shortfall.

"But we hope to get close to our target," he said.

Nguon Nhel said the government would try to strengthen its tax revenue collection system in a bid to raise more money for the public coffers, as well as make more appeals to the international community.

"We get a lot of help from development partners such as Japan, China and many other countries," Nguon Nhel said.

He said the government's 2009-2011 development plan would prioritise agriculture and water-resource projects - both areas where he said the country was lacking.

"The government wants to push the export of agriculture products, as there are more countries asking to buy Cambodian agricultural products," he said.

"So we have to improve the irrigation system, water supply, rice seeds and agricultural technique," Nguon Nhel added.

Only 44 percent of Cambodia's rice fields have access to irrigation.

But the opposition says the focus should lean more towards social services like education and health care, as well as upgrading the power grid "because these are key to sustainable development", Yim Sovann said.

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