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Budget: more money for key areas

Budget: more money for key areas

The National Assembly has approved the 2003 Budget, which allocates a total $707

million for the Kingdom's finances. The Finance Law contains increases for education,

defense, health and interior.

In his statement to the National Assembly on December 9, the Minister of Economy

and Finance, Keat Chhon, said spending on social issues would increase dramatically

as part of the govern-ment's drive to alleviate widespread poverty.

Total expenditure is set at 2.83 trillion riel, an increase of 2.5 percent on 2002.

Among the ministries that gain are: Education, which will get $80.8m (2002: $72m);

Defense $67.1m (2002: $64m); Health $50.5m (2002: $43m); and Interior $40.4m (2002:

$34m).

The bill passed with 75 MPs voting in favor and 11 abstentions.

However objections were raised by legislators from both Funcinpec and opposition

Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). One prominent criticism was the unknown - but likely significant

- amounts lost to corrupt officials, a theme picked up by opposition leader Sam Rainsy,

who estimated it cost 40 percent of revenue.

"The government could collect more money if officials were not corrupt,"

he said. "I am concerned the budget will not serve the interests of people,

only those of corrupt officials."

Rainsy, a former finance minister, did concede that the allocation of money for 2003

was an improvement on spending targets in 2002. But he warned that what looked good

on paper would not necessarily translate into actual spending on the ground.

Complaints about corruption were acknowledged by CPP legislator Cheam Yeap, who heads

the National Assembly's finance commission. He said corruption was still widespread,

but the government was undertaking administrative reforms to combat it.

"As parliamentarians we have urged that there be administrative reform to combat

corruption," he said. "But we cannot do [with anti-corruption] what they

have managed to do in Singapore."

Funcinpec's Nan Sy felt the Budget would not do enough to serve the people, alleviate

poverty and improve infrastructure.

Other areas that MPs said should generate more income for the Treasury were casinos,

forestry, land transactions, and rental income from national assets.

SRP politician Son Chhay noted that revenue from petroleum taxes was budgeted to

be lower in 2003 than it had been in 1994, despite the substantial increase in cars

and fuel-powered machines since then. He estimated that the government lost around

$100 million on that item alone in 2002.

And fellow SRP member Yim Sovann said $85 million of the national budget was lost

each year in 'commission charges' when individual ministries requested their money

from the finance ministry.

Who gets what?

 

 
Allocation
Spending
 
Allocation
$m, 2003
 
Council of Ministers
10.8
 
Defense
17.3
 
Education
67.1
 
Finance
80.8
 
Foreign Affairs
12.6
 
Health
13.0
 
Interior
50.5
 
Justice
40.4
 
Posts & Telecoms
2.4
 
Women's Affairs
10.7
 
Other ministries,
16.5
 
NA, Senate, NAA
66.3
 
Not allocated to specific ministries
319.0
 

Total

707.4

 

Source: Finance Law 2003.

Conversion rate: USD1 = 4,000 riel.

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