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Budget draws calls for transparency

As the National Assembly readies for Wednesday, when it is set to approve its biggest budget yet, totalling $3.2 billion, opposition lawmakers have called for transparency over the expected funding source.

The budget, a draft of which was obtained yesterday, dwarfs that of 2012, which saw $2.6 billion in expenditures.

The biggest portion will be allocated to the social sector, which is set to receive $686.63 million, compared with $608 million in 2012. Defence spending has also ballooned, from $350 million this year to $400.16 million in 2013.

The budget also includes a provision allowing the government to borrow $916.5 million in loans known as special drawing rights. Though a dip from the 2012 budget, which allowed for $1.1 billion in such confessional loans, the figure has drawn concern from the opposition.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, Son Chhay, said he was unhappy by the lack of transparency behind the budget, and called for more information on where the money is expected to come from.  

“We want to have a debate in detail over the foreign loans. We have never been told exactly which country the government borrows from, and Cambodia’s debt will just be increasing, affecting the country’s future economy,” said Chhay, who will be joining the new Cambodian National Rescue Party when it is registered as the country’s main opposition party next year.

“I think that foreign loans provided about 70 per cent of the country’s GDP [this year], which doesn’t look good if we compare it to the economic growth.”

Despite the concerns, however, there were no plans to boycott Wednesday’s vote, said Chhay. Cheam Yeap, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker and chairman of the Parliamentary Commission of Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit, could not be reached for comment.

Last year, opposition lawmakers walked out from the budget vote over similar criticisms, and three parliamentarians resigned, hoping to provoke a constitutional crisis. Instead, the budget was passed unanimously without an objection.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com

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