Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Five-Year Plan becomes law



Five-Year Plan becomes law

Five-Year Plan becomes law

The new Plan reflects the long-term vision of the Government. However, opponents

question whether it should be put into law.

LAST week, when Parliament expeditiously voted into Law a new plan for the development

of the country, a few dissenting voices rose from the Assembly's floor.

While no one questioned the content of the "First Socioeconomic Development

Plan, 1996-2000"- which focuses on rural development and poverty alleviation

programs - some MPs expressed concern about why it was adopted at all.

Critics argue against the rationale of voting into law a document which is intended

to be a mere guideline for development - one which even its more optimistic supporters

concede is overly ambitious and highly unlikely to be fully implemented within the

next quinquennium.

"The Plan must be flexible. If it is not flexible and the government cannot

implement it according to the law, then the government is breaking the law,"

says Funcinpec MP Ahmad Yahya.

Other MPs and some legal observers agree that the adoption of the five-year Plan

as law at best risks placing an unnecessary workload on the legislature, and at worst

threatens to seriously undermine efforts to establish the "rule of law"

in the country.

"They set up a big hurdle for themselves," says one legal expert. "If

the government is not able to do [what the Plan set out to achieve,] it will have

to go back to the National Assembly to amend the law."

But supporters of the motion to turn the Plan into Law say that its critics may have

distorted the spirit of the discussion at the National Assembly.

"The National Assembly thinks that the ministries need to take this document

more seriously, and that's why they have agreed to approve the new five-year Plan

by law," says Sum Sannisith, the director of the General Planning Department

at the Ministry of Planning - one of the agencies responsible for its drafting.

BLDP MP Pol Ham - one of 84 members of Parliament who voted to support the plan -

agrees. "Now if the plan is not implemented we can invite the co-Prime Ministers

to answer why."

As for the likelihood of Parliament having to amend the law in the future, Pol Ham

- like others - does not seem concerned. "I don't think it will be necessary;

this is not like the national budget," he says, adding that the vote was intended

more as a symbolic gesture.

"It is not too serious," he says, adding that no one expects the Government

to be able to implement the five-year plan fully.

Beyond the controversy surrounding its adoption, the plan was welcomed by all concerned

parties.

"I think it is a big progress compared to the two-year plan," says Sannisith

referring to the "Socio-Economic Rehabilitation Plan, 1994-5," which was

approved by the National Assembly in May 1994.

While the previous two-year rehabilitation Plan addressed some of the country's most

urgent needs after the elections - such as macro-economic stability, administrative

reform, physical reconstruction, and economic integration - the new Plan reflects

the long-term vision of the Government.

The document, which was jointly prepared by all concerned ministries, was drafted

in close consultation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other international

organizations.

"The international community at the moment is very concerned with social development

in general and in particular in relation to poverty alleviation," says Sannisith.

While to laymen the name may evoke the ghost of centrally-planned economies, pundits

agree that the five-year Plan is in line with the government's declared commitment

to free-market reforms. "One shouldn't confuse the label with the content,"

said one economist.

The Ministry of Planning agrees that this kind of long-term planning document is

common among most developing countries.

"It is the wrong idea that the five-year plan is related only to socialist countries,"

says Sannisith, "They have one in Thailand, in the Philippines, Malaysia and

Indonesia, and even in France and in Japan."

The ADB has provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Planning on macro-economic

management and planning issues since 1992, according to Sannisith.

"We asked the ADB for assistance in drafting a development plan that was suitable

to the new conditions created by the transition from a centrally-planned to a free-market

economy," he says.

In its present form, the five-year Plan does not have a concrete timetable for program

implementation, admittedly because the success of the plan depends largely on external

factors such as foreign aid.

"Of the total [public] investment of $5 billion, almost three-quarters is expected

to be financed from foreign sources," reads the Plan's Executive Summary.

But officials at the Ministry of Planning emphasize the importance of the document.

"Having that kind of plan, all institutions have a clear idea of what the Government

would like to do," says Sannisith. "It is then up to each institution to

prepare their own concrete, operational plan to implement the five-year Plan."

The Ministry of Planning cites the Public Investment Program (PIP) - also drafted

with the help of the ADB - as its own operational plan.

"In the PIP it is clearly mentioned that roughly 60% of public investment funds

need to be allocated to rural areas, either by providing funds from the national

budget or by asking loan and assistance from the international community," Sannisith

explains.

But he reluctantly admits that even the PIP is not etched in stone.

"The PIP is still doubtful because it was prepared forecasting available resources

based on projections of external assistance loans and of internal capacity to mobilize

funds."

Despite this built-in uncertainty, Sannisith remains positive. "I'm very optimistic,

although a comprehensive fiscal reform needs to be done to implement any plan."

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where