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MPs allowed to vote on loan

MPs allowed to vote on loan

T HE National assembly voted unanimously to allow the government to borrow money

from the World Bank on Feb 21-an ironic twist given the furore over the Royal

Air Cambodge deal that did not enjoy the same transparency with many members of

the assembly.

Sure enough, the vote presented an ideal opening for former Finance Minister

Sam Rainsy to rail against the RAC deal. Rainsy asked for a "discussion" on the

deal, saying it was unconstitutional. Rainsy is not alone among MPs to consider

the $6 million RAC loan as being less than open.

Rainsy was nicely blocked by assembly chairman Chea Sim, who suggested that

his request was not included by the permanent committee in the session's

agenda.

The $17.2 million interest-free loan, from the International Development

Association (IDA) of the World Bank, will be used to hire overseas experts both

foreign and Cambodians, to work in various ministries.

Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance, said that the cost of hiring was

high and over 68 percent of the money would be spent on services and

accommodation for those experts.

"The question is that dare we play the game or not?", he asked, adding the

experts would work in areas of technical assistance, financial control and

development of private sector of the country's economy.

He said they would also help the government strengthen its administrative

structure and as well as give confidence to money-lending institutions.

"We are in a rocky situation [of administrative management]," he said.

"And this kind of rocky situation would raise doubt among loan institutions

that we are not able to control the money lent to us."

He said under the agreement concluded with IDA in mid-December last year the

government would not have to start repayments until May 1, 2005, but would pay a

bi-annual service charge of 0.75 percent. Repayments are to be made twice yearly

until it is completed in 2034.

The ratification was made under Article 90 of the constitution, which

requires the executive branch to seek prior approval from the legislature before

the former could borrow money from foreign countries.

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