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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - National Budget to rise by $300 million next year

National Budget to rise by $300 million next year

The National Assembly will debate a draft National Budget Law for 2008 that provides

for funding of $1.5 billion, an increase of $300 million from this year's $1.2 billion

budget.Cheam Yeap, chairman of Finance and Banking commission of the National Assembly,

said the draft budget lowers spending on police and defense by reducing the budgets

of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense by 4%.

The actual budgets for each ministry are not released until the debate is held in

December.

"Unless calamity happens the budget estimation is correct," Yeap told reporters

at the National Stakeholder Workshop on Budget Law 2008 conducted by the NGO Forum

on Cambodia and the Economic Institute of Cambodia on November 27.

Yeap said that the new budget adds the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Water Resources

and Meteorology to those ministries considered to be high priority spending areas.

The existing four high priority spending areas are Agriculture, Rural Development,

Health and Education.

"We tried to shorten the largest gap between the staff of the state and simple

people," he said. "Step by step we all will have enough."

Yim Sovann, chairman of the Home Affairs, National Defense, Investigation and Anti-Corruption

Commission of the National Assembly, said he supported the addition of the two new

priority spending areas although he said the budgets for the existing priority spending

areas are insufficient.

"Each ministry should use the budget effectively," Sovann said, "Some

powerful ministries receive more than what the budget approves and use it improperly."

Sovann said that the 2008 draft budget includes $130 million not designated for expenditure

and he is concerns it will be used without transparency.

Ngy San, deputy executive director of NGO Forum on Cambodia, said the workshop was

aimed at encouraging budget debate.

"Debate on the budget is very necessary for the government to succeed in its

national strategic development plan," San said. "We noticed that some priority

ministries did not get a budget increase," he said, although the Ministry of

Health did get an increase.

Sok Hach, director of the Economic Institute of Cambodia, said the government did

not provide enough means for the public and civil society to play an important role

in helping to develop society.

"We never have the chance to sit at the same table to discuss the National Budget,"

Hach said. "This is the first time that parliamentarians and civil society discussed

the National Budget."

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