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Adjustment rationale

The Editor,

R eading Matthew Grainger's coverage of the Structural Adjustment Programme roundtable

(Post, Feb 22, 1996) leaves one with the impression of lassitude among conference

participants for such reform in this country. The author has captured loud and clear

the skepticism of overseas speakers, but fails to consider the rationale that has

led the Royal Government to embrace so-called orthodox policies in the first place.

The crux of Cambodia structural reform in the past three years has been to find lasting

improvement to the way the government operates. It is about re-asserting government

control on the national budget. It is about official waste, and how to deal with

its attendant social inequity. It is not about reducing government control in economic

life. It is not about "more" versus "less" market, if such debate

has ever taken place in Cambodia.

Passing tourists who pride themselves for being socially aware, will not fail to

see that the apparatus of central administration is anything but a paragon of efficiency

or probity. To anyone who has had the briefest encounter with Cambodia's state bureaucracy,

the need for "orthodox" reform would seem self evident. Many would indeed

regard "state service" in this country as a painful contradiction in terms.

The level of pay does not explain why Cambodia's taxpayers are apparently saddled

with more than a fair number of the mediocre or the indolent. It certainly does not

justify the use of state-owned cars for Sunday family outings. If an "alternative"

budget could have been drawn up that will allow such state largesse to go on unchecked,

the now defunct State of Cambodia would have dearly loved to hear about it.

Strangely enough, the issue of Cambodia's long-term dependency on external assistance,

did not receive the kind of attention it deserves.

It highlights the country's openness to outside pressure just as much as it should

also bolster the Royal Government's determination to review unproductive spending.

- Ung Bunleng, Phnom Penh

(The author is a staff member of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, currently

seconded to the National Bank of Cambodia. The views expressed are his own and not

of those institutions he is associated with.)

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