Agroup of expatriate Khmers in France had this to say about Cambodia's
interpretation of its pledges of cash following the third ICORC meeting: "they
do not correspond to reality."
After all the hype of ICORC, that may just
be the wisest comment anyone has yet made in trying to make send of the figures
that have poured out.
Said one Western analyst: "Remember, pledges are
just intentions. It can't be assumed that they will equal actual
When asked to give some more help, in that the Post could
not reconcile many of the figures presented, he responded: "Join the
Most countries have linked pledges to development
projects-immediately raising the probability that the money they have "promised"
might be unable to be absorbed into a shattered infrastructure.
countries have had cash pledges published when there is still debate within
their own capitals about the future scope of overseas aid-the United States
being a case in point.
Still others have upcoming fiscal deadlines,
therefore any money they had "pledged" may well be subject to
"There will have to be immediate adjustments in those cases,"
said one bemused government official.
Not one person could review the
figures and pretend to know what were "old" pledges, from previous meetings, and
those that may be new.
Some of the money might indeed have already been
Lastly, and most bizarre, was the Cambodian government's presentation of a
raft of pledges that spun out from 1996 "and beyond." Said one financial analyst
present at the Paris meeting: "I didn't think anyone was asked (about future
The day after ICORC, Finance Minister Keat Chhon-who had gone on the record
pre-ICORC saying Cambodia was after an "extra" $295 million-welcomed donor
pledges of $700 million.
No official figures were released on that first
Chhon-whose own ministerial position has been the subject to flying,
unsubstantiated rumors around town in recent days-returned to Phnom Penh two
days later trumpeting a $918 million package from Cambodia's international
Chhon was basing that guess on apparent pledges for 1995 ($473
million) and 1996 ($440 million).
One Western analyst said Cambodia was
"trying to talk the figures up" and that the "couldn't see the figures being
The Post understands that for some time during the
conference the figures were "skewed" because some countries had recorded their
pledges in their own local currencies.
For the Kingdom though ICORC was a
Chhon had a catchy line in naming the ICORCs to date - the first
ICORC meeting being "renaissance"; the second "recovery"; the latest one in
Paris "responsibility"; and the fourth - and probably the last - in Phnom Penh
"The conference was a great success for Cambodia and its
people, not for two Prime Ministers," Prime Norodom Ranariddh said on March
Keat Chhon admitted that some of the figures might be overlapping due to
donors' different fiscal years.
Chhon said: "The importance is not the
figure, which was achieved as we wanted. What is important is our creation of
partnerships with donor countries. They more than understand our
Donor officials spoken to by the Post were less convinced. One
said: "There is a great deal of confusion across the board."
don't just go around putting up their hands giving away money at these meetings.
But these figures involve previous pledges. (ICORC) means different things to
He said some countries would have no trouble
spending their money, whereas others - linked to big-ticket projects - could be
affected by the slowness of programs, design and planning blueprints, security
and the incapacity of Cambodia to absorb the money. "Some countries just don't
have the flexibility to move."
Other financial experts spoken to by the
Post believed that the figures were "sleight of hand" and, in one case, "a
Another drawback was that there is no coordinating body to
monitor the ICORC money "so the way the process goes is confusing to
Ranariddh that Cambodia asked for separate aid for domestic
problems. "We are committed to solving them because they are in our interest. We
don't need advice."
Chhon said the government was accountable to its
voters and taxpayers "but we cannot address all our problems at
According to the figures, the biggest donors for 1995 are: 1)
Japan ($79.6 million); 2) World Bank ($75 million); 3) France ($50 million); 4)
Asian Development Bank ($48.5 million); 5) International Monetary Fund ($40
million); 6) United States ($36.5 million); 7) UNDP ($26 million); 8) Australia
($21.1 million); 9) Germany ($19.3 million); 10) Sweden ($16 million).