The government has delayed signing a loan deal with the Asian Development Bank
for an environmental management project, complaining that proposed consultant
salaries are too high.
The Post has obtained the Memorandum of
Understanding for the $20.5 million Tonle Sap Environmental Management Project.
It budgeted for $8.3 million to be spent on consultants, and $1.1 million for
raising government salaries. International consultants would receive $12,000 per
month and an extra $80 per day for expenses, all paid for out of the ADB
Director of Fisheries Nao Thouk confirmed that the government had
asked the ADB to review salary costs.
"The government complained that the
salaries are very high," he said. "The two sides will discuss the matter during
the MoU signing ceremony. I think this is too much [money] because we have to
pay the loan back to the ADB. They should keep the salaries as low as
The MoU also drew strong criticism from NGOs and the
opposition Sam Rainsy Party, whose MP Son Chhay said ADB loans did not serve the
interests of the people and were not approved by parliament.
happened many times and we want to vomit at it. It is ridiculous when the
average Cambodian only gets $200 a year," he said. "What can we do? Some deal
has been made outside the country and there is no transparency and
Urooj Malik, country director of the ADB, said he was
unable to comment on the project as the bank was still in discussion with the
However a statement from the ADB showed that a typical
project would see around 5 percent of costs allotted to salaries. That is far
less than the 46 percent of total costs allocated to salaries in the
environmental management MoU.
Mak Sithirith, coordinator of the NGO
Forum's Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said wages for the project were
unusually high and this was not an effective allocation of money.
much money will actually go to implementation," he said. "This [project] will
benefit mostly the foreign consultants and those working for the ADB, but will
have less benefit for local communities."
Nao Thouk said he expected the
revised MoU would be signed in late June.
"I am happy with the [concept
of the] project because it could help the government increase preservation of
the environment and the Tonle Sap lake resource and fishing lots," he
However Sithirith questioned the need for an ADB loan. He said the
fisheries sector generated substantial income, and felt some could be used to
fund conservation projects in the Tonle Sap area if the government managed it
"It is unfair. I don't know how much the people will get from
this yet they will be burdened with paying it back," he said. "Cambodia will
have a big problem in paying so much money back."
The Tonle Sap project
will focus on community capacity building and natural resource management. It is
composed of an $11.8 million loan from the ADB's Special Resources Fund and a
$3.9 million contribution from the Cambodian government.
It also includes
a $760,000 grant from the UNDP's Capacity 21 program and a Global Environment
Facility grant of $3.7 million. The project will be implemented mainly through
the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.