REGIONAL governments must increase fiscal stimulus and social spending to counteract threats to their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) posed by the global financial crisis, the UN and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released Wednesday.
“Most stimulus measures have focused on areas other than social expenditures,” ADB Vice President Ursula Schaefer-Preuss said in a statement. “If we are to address the human impacts of the economic slowdown and achieve the MDGs, then social spending needs to be stepped up substantially.”
The MDGs are targets in areas such as health and education that the Cambodian government adopted in 2003 in cooperation with the UN, aiming to achieve them by 2015. The report noted the Kingdom’s progress towards MDGs related to sanitation and gender disparities in the health sector, though it cited Cambodia as one of the countries in the region most vulnerable to the effects of the financial crisis, particularly in the area of poverty reduction.
UN resident coordinator Douglas Broderick said in November that Cambodia’s social spending was low for the developing world. “On average, safety net expenditure in developing countries is in the range of 1 to 2 percent of GDP, but Cambodia’s estimated expenditure is currently lower than 1 percent,” he said.
In a draft of the National Strategic Development Plan update finalised in November, the government pledged to implement “a sizable fiscal stimulus package and a sharper focus on support for social safe net programmes”, though Cambodian Economic Association President Chan Sophal said that little progress had been made on such a stimulus to date.
“There are actually many existing efforts to help the poor or the poorest, it’s just that they are small projects,” he said.