Cambodia has outlined plans to earmark over 38 trillion riel (over $9 billion) for the fiscal year 2024, prioritising the education, vocational training, health and social work sectors.

The draft Law on Financial Management 2024 was ratified during an October 27 Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Hun Manet.

The law, structured in five chapters with 14 articles, emerges at a time when the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)-led government continues to enjoy significant trust from the populace for its projected leadership over the coming five years, said the Government Spokesperson Unit in a press release.

For 2024, the government anticipates an expenditure of 38.829 trillion riel ($9.376 billion), with 34.497 trillion riel ($8.33 billion), or roughly 24.13% of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP), marked for national-level expenditures. This is a decrease of 5.8% in comparison to the 2023 budget.

“Sub-national expenses are estimated at 4.332 trillion riel ($1.046 billion), about 11.7% of the government’s total outlay and 3.03% of the GDP, marking a 6.6% rise from the 2023 figures,” added the press release.

The budget plan identifies education, vocational training, health and social affairs as core areas of focus.

The release added that the budget serves as an important mechanism for the government to navigate domestic and international challenges. It aims to optimise the efficiency of budget utilisation, with a strong emphasis on enhancing public administration reform, core governance reform, institutional capacity and people-centric initiatives.

Manet stated that the efficacy of the budget execution would significantly determine the government’s success. He urged all institutions to enhance its implementation, viewing 2024 as a crucial year for refining expenditure to achieve set objectives efficiently.

Government spokesperson Pen Bona noted that the strategy predominantly zeroes in on human and institutional capacity development, coupled with structural, administrative and governance reforms, aligning with the Pentagonal Strategy, unveiled at the onset of Manet’s tenure in August.

“The budget encapsulates our strategy to preserve the peace and development achievements secured under the leadership of former Prime Minister Hun Sen. While we strive to uphold past accomplishments, we’re equally vigilant about potential challenges that might arise domestically and internationally, especially those that could negatively influence our economy,” said Bona.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, voiced his support for the targeted expenditures to fortify socio-economic development.

He underscored the importance of ensuring that funds are used effectively and expressed concerns over the technical skill deficiencies in the country, especially in areas overseen by the labour ministry.

“Though the health ministry has commendable resources, many Cambodians still seek medical treatment abroad, raising questions about the ministry’s effectiveness. Ensuring funds are used optimally is paramount. While the ministries’ intentions are commendable, ineffective reforms could entail additional expenses in the long run,” he said.