The National Assembly has approved the 2003 Budget, which allocates a total $707
million for the Kingdom's finances. The Finance Law contains increases for education,
defense, health and interior.
In his statement to the National Assembly on December 9, the Minister of Economy
and Finance, Keat Chhon, said spending on social issues would increase dramatically
as part of the govern-ment's drive to alleviate widespread poverty.
Total expenditure is set at 2.83 trillion riel, an increase of 2.5 percent on 2002.
Among the ministries that gain are: Education, which will get $80.8m (2002: $72m);
Defense $67.1m (2002: $64m); Health $50.5m (2002: $43m); and Interior $40.4m (2002:
The bill passed with 75 MPs voting in favor and 11 abstentions.
However objections were raised by legislators from both Funcinpec and opposition
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). One prominent criticism was the unknown - but likely significant
- amounts lost to corrupt officials, a theme picked up by opposition leader Sam Rainsy,
who estimated it cost 40 percent of revenue.
"The government could collect more money if officials were not corrupt,"
he said. "I am concerned the budget will not serve the interests of people,
only those of corrupt officials."
Rainsy, a former finance minister, did concede that the allocation of money for 2003
was an improvement on spending targets in 2002. But he warned that what looked good
on paper would not necessarily translate into actual spending on the ground.
Complaints about corruption were acknowledged by CPP legislator Cheam Yeap, who heads
the National Assembly's finance commission. He said corruption was still widespread,
but the government was undertaking administrative reforms to combat it.
"As parliamentarians we have urged that there be administrative reform to combat
corruption," he said. "But we cannot do [with anti-corruption] what they
have managed to do in Singapore."
Funcinpec's Nan Sy felt the Budget would not do enough to serve the people, alleviate
poverty and improve infrastructure.
Other areas that MPs said should generate more income for the Treasury were casinos,
forestry, land transactions, and rental income from national assets.
SRP politician Son Chhay noted that revenue from petroleum taxes was budgeted to
be lower in 2003 than it had been in 1994, despite the substantial increase in cars
and fuel-powered machines since then. He estimated that the government lost around
$100 million on that item alone in 2002.
And fellow SRP member Yim Sovann said $85 million of the national budget was lost
each year in 'commission charges' when individual ministries requested their money
from the finance ministry.
Who gets what?
Council of Ministers
Posts & Telecoms
NA, Senate, NAA
Not allocated to specific ministries
Source: Finance Law 2003.
Conversion rate: USD1 = 4,000 riel.