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Govt's priorities to fight poverty, hunger

Govt's priorities to fight poverty, hunger

D ESPITE international donors' insistence that the Paris ICORC meeting is not a

pledging conference the Cambodian government is warning it needs $295 million to

meet its 1995 budget requirements.

Human rights and corruption may be the

priorities of Western countries, but without the cash, Cambodia says it priority

of eliminating poverty and hunger won't be met.

Cambodia's budget

requirement for this year is about $540 million. So far, donations and

government revenues add up to slightly more than $240 million - leaving a huge

shortfall, said a government spokesman.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon's

95-page presentation to the March 13-15 International Committee on the

Reconstruction of Cambodia (ICORC) meeting says: "The government's primary

objective is to improve the well-being of the population and to provide it fair

opportunities to succeed in an atmosphere of peace and trust."

"After two

decades of the kind of turmoil that racked the country, no concerned Government

could offer any less."

In addition, Cambodia will ask for four items

of emergency aid to:

  • address the food/rice crisis which was aggravated by the drought and floods

    of late 1994;

  • accelerate demining activities;
  • provide for the urgent need to tackle communicable and preventable disease;

    and

  • integrate internally-displaced people and Khmer Rouge defectors into the

    private, civilian economy.

The report reminds donors "the Royal Government assumed office only in

November 1993, thus it is not quite 16 months since the government became the

manager of its own development.

"This is not long, particularly when one

considers the magnitude of the problems and issues to be addressed: transforming

an entire government administration to ensure good governance, establishing a

legal base and the means to enforce it, rebuilding a devastated infrastructure,

recreating health and education facilities, containing armed insurgency and

bandits, rekindling personal trust and social cohesion, consolidating

macroeconomic stability and growth, alleviating poverty, and eliminating

hunger."

"Tackling any one of these would be difficult enough, tackling

all of them simultaneously is positively daunting," states the report.

At

a press conference March 4, the finance minister said the government will tell

the ICORC its economic health is good.

Chhon said the government has

broadened its revenue base, drawing funds from taxes, customs and investments.

As for international concerns about human rights and press freedom "we

have almost completely accomplished what the international communities

want."

Responding to questions about corruption, he said: "What I feel

ashamed about is that this country has to solve the problem itself. We have to

clean our house by ourselves," adding it would soon be dealt with.

In its

presentation to donors, the government directly addresses international concerns

about safety and security in Cambodia.

"The government is well aware of

its responsibilities for the security of those people involved in international

assistance projects, as well as for the security of the population at

large.

"It is also well aware of the concerns of the international

community on this score and of the fact that security problems have delayed the

implementation of certain projects."

"It has to be recognized that it is

virtually impossible to eliminate the perverse activities of armed bandits,

although the Royal Government is actively exploring ways and means to contain

them and to improve security in outlying project locations."

In its

presentation to donors, the government says its priorities include: balancing

loan and grant assistance; broadening umbrella agreements and improving its

ability to absorb aid through staff training and better organization.

In

addition, the government plans to review commodity aid and budget support

programs and encourage the greater use of Cambodian talent - including

expatriate Cambodians.

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