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Budgetary windfall for key ministries

Budgetary windfall for key ministries

T HE National Assembly has approved a revised 1995 national budget which is than

20 percent higher than the original.

The new budget totals 1,283 billion

riels ($513.2 million), an increase of $106.2 million or 21 percent.

The

budgetary windfall came from increased taxes, duties, a 114 million SDR loan

($160 million), and a planned $20 million from an auction in four months of

confiscated timber.

Military spending climbed from last year's 220

billion riels ($85 million) to 308.5 billion riels ($123.4 million).

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said while defence expenditures rose,

overall they were down from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent of the Gross Domestic

Product (GDP).

However, he said comparatively more money would go to

other public sector spending, such as education, development, agriculture and

health - which barely survived the threat of budget cuts last year.

Line

item budgets approved for selected ministries include:

  • Public Works - up from last year's $44.2 million to $53.5 million (133.7

    billion riels);

  • Finance and Economy - up from last year's $45.2 million to $54.4 million

    (136 billion riels);

  • Interior - up from last year's $48 million to $61.6 million (154.2 billion

    riels);

  • Education - up from last year's $44.9 million to $49.7 million (124.4

    billion riels);

  • Agriculture - up from last year's $23.9 million to $28.8 million (72.1

    billion riels);

  • Health - up from last year's $19 million to $24.8 million (62.1 billion

    riels).

  • Mines, Industry and Energy - $26.9 million (67.2 billion riels);
  • Rural Development - $20.9 million (52.3 billion riels).

Chhon said it was planned that by the end of this year another $20 million

could be pumped into the government coffers from auctions of logs confiscated

from illegal operations and smuggling.

The Ministry of Finance was also

entrusted by lawmakers as the only body representing the government allowed to

seek outside loans of up to 150 million SDR (or $210 million), only having to

inform Parliament twice a year.

Larger drawdowns have to be approved at

Council of Ministers level. So far 114 million SDR (US $160 million) has been

approved, said Chhon.

Min Chhin, a CPP MP from Prey Veng, questioned the

move to authorize the Ministry of Finance to approve foreign loans.

He

said he feared that the Assembly was relinquishing too much power to the

executive body and curtailing its own power to question the latter about

misusing funds.

"The international community does not tell us what to do,

this country has full integrity. But in our position of being assisted, we have

to work hard for transparency and accountability not only before the Assembly,

but also donors and tax-payers," said Keat Chhon.

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