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Budget law debated in National Assembly

THE 2007 Budget Management Law came up for debate in the National Assembly on Wednesday as opposition lawmakers criticised government priorities while state officials highlighted policies they said contributed to strong growth in revenues.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann discussed Cambodia’s relatively high cost of living compared with other countries in the region, its dependence on imports, and the budget shortfalls of various ministries in 2007 before moving to the central point of his argument.

“I would like to tell his Excellency that other countries prioritise health, education and transport – and not just national defence,” he said, citing the Thai healthcare system under former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a model of best practices.

Ouk Rabun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, did not respond directly to Yim Sovann’s remarks on healthcare and education. Instead, he predicted that current policies would continue to increase the available budget across the board.

After describing how tax breaks for agriculture and investment may have produced short-term revenue shortfalls in 2007, Ouk Rabun said that, nevertheless, “revenue is increasing from one year to another, and there is still potential for growth by as much as 18-20 percent”.

“Deficits remain an issue, but our earnings potential will continue to increase from one year to another – through economic growth, but also through reforms that will allow us to both spend and tax more effectively.”

The draft law on the 2007 budget contained three chapters and 11 articles. It was passed by the National Assembly, without receiving any support from opposition paties, receiving the vote of 76 of the 94 lawmakers present.

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