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Budget sees social-sector boosts

Social services – including health and education – have received hefty boosts in next year’s draft budget, with the entire sector seeing a 15 percent increase in allocations.

According to the draft, approved by the Council of Ministers on October 15, around US$502 million has been allocated to social services, up from $435 million this year. Of this amount, $165 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Health, a 16 percent increase, whereas $218 million has been earmarked for the Education Ministry, an 11 percent increase.

The draft calls for expenditures of around US$2.34 billion, an increase of 19 percent over the $1.98 billion this year.

Defence and security spending received an 8 percent bump in the budget, rising from $273 million to $298 million, though this was well down from the 24 percent jump that took place between 2009 and 2010.

Cheam Yeap, head of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee, said next year’s budget was drawn up with a specific focus on social services, and that the draft would be handed to parliament for approval in early December.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the increase in planned expenditures was positive, but that tax revenue, which currently sat at around 12 percent of GDP, was among the lowest in the region. He said the low tax revenue was a result of corruption, and urged more efforts to tackle graft. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

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