Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Wednesday that commune development budgets will double to more than $70,000 in 2020, excluding administrative costs, and more than triple in 2023, in response to public needs – but an NGO has requested transparency over the allocation of funds.
Speaking at a conference to review past achievements, Sar Kheng said this year, the development budget for each commune is only $35,000 but this will increase to $73,000 in 2020.
The figure will rise to $85,000 the following year and will reach $100,000 in 2022, before increasing to $110,000 in 2023.
He said the decision to increase the commune development budget throughout the country has already been approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
“This is the ambition and political will of the Royal Government – to enable the commune administration, which is closest to the people, to have the budget to develop their local areas according to citizens’ needs,” he said.
Sar Kheng emphasised that the reform to provide services according to the “one window” policy for sub-national governance is a useful mechanism to meet local needs since it ensures transparency, reduces corruption, saves time and will attract increased state revenue.
According to a 2018 goal-setting report, Cambodia had one capital, 24 provinces, 159 provincial districts, 12 municipal districts, 1,410 provincial communes, 236 municipal communes, 26 cities and 14,383 villages.
Soem Pov, Roka commune chief in Battambang province’s Sangke district, welcomed the decision to increase development budgets.
She said it would allow communes to better respond to villagers’ needs, by developing infrastructure and promoting human resources. In the past, the budget package was insufficient she said, leading to disruption of her development plans.
Pov also expected that the increased budget would help resolve the larger challenges in her commune such as the prolonged issue of road building, canal digging and other construction projects.
“We will allocate funds to resolve prioritised issues first . . . We will determine which areas should be addressed first, so we can use the budget in the right direction,” she said.
‘Make the most of it’
Tek Vannara, the executive director at the NGO Forum on Cambodia, told The Post on Wednesday that it is good news that commune administrations will receive twice as much budget for development. This is what they have requested, he said, in order to have enough funds to meet communal needs.
He said the next step is for sub-national authorities to formulate a clear mechanism to allocate the budget in a transparent manner.
“To make this $73,000 commune budget effective, they must enhance the communes’ capacity to manage and use correct mechanisms to carry out their plans."
“It is important to hold discussions at the grassroots level to help make the most of commune budgets."
“Opportunities must be created for open participation at commune level in order to make joint plans and allow villagers in communes to know what is happening and to participate in decision making so the budget can be used to respond to actual needs,” he said.