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Cars pass a construction area of National Road 6 in Kandal province in 2013.
Cars pass a construction area of National Road 6 in Kandal province in 2013. Yesterday Sam Rainsy called for provincial budget allocations to be increased to development and infrastructure. Hong Menea

Fix funding shortfall: CNRP

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy yesterday proposed the National Assembly increase the amount local authorities are allocated from the national budget, arguing that the current sum is insufficient.

The $200 million that provincial governments currently receive from the total budget of about $3.6 billion each year is not enough for grassroots development headed by local government officials who are more in tune with the people’s needs than national legislators, Rainsy said.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party leader made his statements during a session on a 2013 draft law on the state budget yesterday.

“It is very necessary, in order to strengthen democracy in Cambodia, that we offer larger budgets to the sub-national level,” Rainsy said. “I have noted that the amount the state expends at the sub-national level is very small.”

Rainsy also suggested that laws be amended in order to give provincial governments more powers to collect taxes on their own, and receive a larger percentage of taxes collected by the national government.

Such efforts to decentralise Cambodia’s government have been slow to pass, Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said yesterday.

Kol added that some believe that national officials lack confidence in provincial governors, while others think they are simply resistant to change.

“One argument might be that the government does not trust the capacity of sub-national officials to handle such large amounts of money,” Kol said.

“It’s another [belief] that the government’s process of decentralisation has been slower than we wanted to see.”

Responding to Rainsy’s calls for budget increases to local authorities, Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth said the government is planning to find a way to further decentralise financial powers.

The $200 million provided to provincial governments is distributed by dividing 40 per cent of it evenly across all provinces, and the other 60 per cent is handed out depending on a province’s size, population and poverty rate, Porn Moniroth said.

“We believe that this is an equitable distribution method. We ask for provinces with a lot of revenue to divide this money with provinces with less, so they can have equal opportunities for development,” he said.

“So we are prepared to think through this issue clearly, and work on it carefully.”

In an interview yesterday, Banteay Meanchey Provincial Governor Kor Sum Saroeut agreed with Rainsy’s assessment that provinces need to control a larger portion of the national budget.

“If we receive more money, we will be able to develop faster. My province still lacks much necessary infrastructure,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN

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John Lowrie's picture

I recall back in 1998 or 1999 questioning plans to introduce elected commune councils as the key to decentralisation. In fact they are far too small in administrative terms to be able to provide services - the district would have been a better operational size. Until the capacity to manage services locally is provided, ministries will not delegate functions or give up their areas of interest! The crucial requirement is for there to be a direct link between the elected officials and populations served, rather than the current set-up of indirect elections with only commune councilors and National Assembly members as the voting constituency. That ensures that whatever the current make-up is between parties will be replicated, and crucially non-party members, but worthy local citizens, cannot stand. It is a pity that a real reform agenda is not being considered.

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