The European Union’s delegation to Cambodia will almost triple its funding to the Kingdom over the next five years because the bloc’s aid policy has shifted its focus to least developed countries.
Jean-François Cautain, ambassador for the European Union’s delegation to Cambodia, announced the EU would inject $510 million into Cambodia between 2014 and 2020, compared with $189 million between 2007 and 2013.
“The European Union decided in 2013 to refocus its assistance funding on least developing countries … in order to assist them in getting out of the poverty trap,” Cautain said. “There’s the same [overall amount], just fewer countries.”
Cautain revealed the figure at a joint press conference with Cambodia’s Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron.
The event, at Phnom Penh’s Sisowath High School, was held to announce a separate two-year $46.4 million funding package for Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
That funding – under a continuing financing agreement – will be delivered to the ministry’s budget only if it meets certain targets including increasing enrollment, lowering primary repetition rates, implementing national assessments and improving budget management.
The $510 million will be given to Cambodia over the next five years to support a broader range of sectors, as well as education, which is likely to get about $174 million of the total.
Cautain said the delegation’s funds would be spread across education, natural resource management and governance initiatives.
He said natural resource management projects would include developing a sustainable logging industry and boosting local food processing, particularly rice and fish.
“There is a need for the country to grow and we want to do it in a way that the Cambodian people can benefit from,” he said.
He said certifying Cambodian timber for export to the EU was among the delegation’s longer-term goals, adding the focus was on developing regulated trade to protect forests because efforts to purely stop illegal logging weren’t working.
“It’s a race between deforestation and putting in place a system,” he said.
He said money for governance would flow into initiatives to increase accountability and decentralise government, as well as fund the trial against the Khmer Rouge’s former leaders and genocide education.
Chuon Naron welcomed the EU’s $46.4 million boost to his ministry’s budget, saying the funds were necessary to continue the improvements.
Responding to a question about increasing wages in the sector, he mentioned plans to give public employees a pay bump next year as well as increasing teachers’ “functional allowance” to attract more graduates.
According to the European Development Cooperation Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2018, the EU delegation’s contributions combined with money from EU member states will equal about $1.8 billion over the next five years.