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Partial approval for draft budget

Partial approval for draft budget

The National Assembly approved four of the six chapters in the 2010 draft budget law on Monday, despite the objections of opposition lawmakers.

The National Assembly approved four of the six chapters in the 2010 draft budget law on Monday, despite the objections of opposition lawmakers.

Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance, told the National Assembly that his ministry had “worked hard to generate revenue, and we hope to increase the level of revenue for next year”.

During the debate, the minister said the government would save money by limiting state employees with multiple positions to a single salary. “The government did not reduce the salaries of soldiers or civil servants. On the contrary, the government has increased their salaries from last year.
At the same time, public servants with multiple positions can only be paid for one of them,” Keat Chhon said.

To help shore up revenue sapped by effects of the global downturn, the budget contains provisions for new property and automobile taxes.

Under the draft, a tax of 0.1 percent would be levied on properties that are valued at more than 100 million riels (US$24,000) by a Property
Valuation Commission to be established by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Agricultural land, government property and religious, diplomatic and humanitarian organisations would be tax-exempt.

Automobiles would be subject to taxes varying by year of production and horsepower, with vehicles of 24 horsepower and above subject to a tax of 2 million riels ($480).

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the budget allocated too little to crucial development-related areas such as education, health and agriculture.

“In the health sector, people spend lots of money for care in private hospitals, but they cannot find quality treatment in public hospitals,” he said.

“The education sector receives very little money, even though far more spending is needed here. Agriculture also needs a greater allotment if we are to build up the sector to the point where we can compete with neighbouring countries.”

Civil society coalition NGO Forum echoed Yim Sovann’s concerns in an analysis of the 2010 budget issued on Saturday, which said that “there is concern that the relative low increase for education will affect the improvement of quality education,” citing the need for “qualified teachers and appropriate teaching materials, both financed from the current budget”.

The analysis also noted that “the increase for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is lower than expected, given, for instance, the need for investment in agriculture extension services.”

Yam Ponnarith, spokesman and lawmaker from the Human Rights Party, said: “The HRP did not adopt the budget because the government has included too many irregularities and ambiguities regarding how the money will be spent. The budget package must be divided and explained clearly.”

The National Assembly is due to resume debate on the draft budget law today, when parliamentarians are expected to pass the law’s final two chapters.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JACOB GOLD

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