Five of Cambodia’s 28 governmental ministries have been allocated the largest portions of the $8 billion draft national budget for 2021, with the Ministry of Economy and Finance explaining that these ministries had been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finance ministry spokesman Meas Soksensan told The Post on November 29 that the government had allowed these five ministries to spend more money than other ministries in accordance with the Rectangular Strategy Phase IV in the context of the Covid-19 health crisis.
The main goals of the strategy, he said, were to boost economic growth, address challenges head-on and manage risk effectively.
“In order to achieve these main objectives, the 2021 budget was prepared based on five key strategic principles and seven key technical principles,” said Soksensan, adding that the budget was focused on general administration, national defence, security and public order, social affairs and the economy.
The draft budget, which was approved by the Council of Ministers on October 25, earmarked more than $859 million for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, $641 million for the Ministry of National Defence, and $599 million for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
According to the draft budget, which was then approved by the National Assembly on November 25, the Ministry of Health will be allowed to spend $557 million and the Ministry of Interior permitted to spend $507 million.
The 2021 draft budget stated that it was prepared in accordance with the base expenditure ceilings set by the government to be provided to each ministry and institution for non-staff expenditure at the level of budgets of expenditure rationalisation for 2020, as well as the implementation of the principles of maintaining the salary levels equal to 2020, including the basic salaries and severance payments.
“As a result, national and sub-national current expenditure plans decrease somewhat, compared to the 2020 National Budget Law.”
Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, praised the government for prioritising education and public services. Even so, he said the government provided too much of the draft budget to the defence ministry because the present security situation did not warrant such spending.
“Regarding the defence ministry, it would be better if the budget [for national defence] could be reduced to less than ministries that work for direct social benefits.
“Because we lack money, we want to generate income to support the sub-national levels, such as villages and communes, so this budget can be used for the benefit of the people, especially during the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.