Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Penh Governor pans CNRP’s budget promise to communes

Phnom Penh Governor pans CNRP’s budget promise to communes

Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong meets community members at an event in the capital’s Koh Dach commune yesterday. Facebook
Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong meets community members at an event in the capital’s Koh Dach commune yesterday. Facebook

Phnom Penh Governor pans CNRP’s budget promise to communes

Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong yesterday questioned an opposition policy pledge to drastically increase commune budgets, instead promoting the Cambodian People’s Party’s current piecemeal approach to funding projects.

Delivered at the opening of a commune office and police station in Chroy Changvar district’s Koh Dach commune, the remarks took aim at one of the opposition’s most concrete plans – to allocate one-fifth of the national budget to communes.

“One party said if they win the election, they would allocate $500,000 to each commune and, at the previous election, they promised to give 40,000 riel [$10] a month to the elderly as pensions,” he said. “Are there any aunties and uncles here who believed the 40,000 riel pledge?”

The promised funding redistribution would funnel at least $823 million to the Kingdom’s 1,646 communes in a dramatic boost from their current financing.

While decentralising power to local governments has ostensibly been a ruling party goal for decades, the party has instead kept tight control over the state apparatus, with a 2015 Local Public Sector Initiative report saying “centrally driven political motivations” were “seriously hindering” governance reforms.

Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong cuts a red-ribbon at an event yesterday in the capital's Koh Dach commune. Facebook
Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong cuts a red-ribbon at an event yesterday in the capital's Koh Dach commune. Facebook

According to Ministry of Finance figures released last year, the government allocated just 2.8 percent of its national budget to commune funds – this year equivalent to $92.69 million, or an average of about $57,000 per commune.

Of that funding, about 60 percent went to administrative costs such as wages, and the rest to “development”.

According to Socheatvong, commune development funds are allocated from the state budget as money becomes available, meaning projects are not funded and completed all at once but over time.

“We cannot complete all at one time,” he said. “First, we build 2 kilometres, later we build 6 kilometres, and the remaining 5 kilometres we will construct later,” he said.

Reached yesterday, however, CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua defended the huge boost as both plausible and necessary.

“We need to send experts to the commune level to help local people for any development plan,” she said.

An expert in the sector, who requested anonymity to preserve his relationship with the government, said there was certainly a need to boost commune funding, noting Cambodia compared poorly to other countries regionally in terms of decentralisation.

“The amount could be at least doubled and the current system could accommodate this money,” he said.

An adviser to the Interior Ministry’s National Committee for Subnational Democratic Development, which manages decentralisation, noted that commune budget allocations had risen over the last decade, but conceded there was still a “big gap between resource allocation and people’s needs”.

However, the adviser, who requested anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media, said it made more sense to boost funding at the district level, where differences in population are not as extreme as at the commune level.

“If we try to have more capacity in terms of service delivery, we should consider the district level,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,