Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Council of Ministers on Friday approved the $6,791,249,000 budget for 2019 as laid out by the Ministry of Finance – an 11.4 per cent increase in public spending of on the $6,018,543,704 allocated for this year, a ministry report said.
The draft budget will be sent to the National Assembly this week for final approval.
Defence and education are to receive an 11 per cent and eight per cent respectively in spending increase if the budget is signed off by the National Assembly this week, while healthcare is set for a six per cent decrease.
The Ministry of National Defence was allotted $542 million for 2018 in last year’s budget, while this year $604 million has been pencilled in for 2019. The draft budget sees $915 million set aside for education – an increase on last year’s $848 million if approved by parliament.
The health sector is set to receive a proposed $455.231 million – down from last year’s $485 million.
“The budget aims to continue strengthening peace, political stability, public order and commune village safety for the greater wellbeing of the people, and to protect [the Kingdom’s] independence, integrity and sovereignty, and not to let any forces crack down and destroy it."
“It also ensures the reaching of targets towards poverty reduction by 2050,” the ministry report said.
Last year’s budget saw increases in spending on education, health and the arts.
However for 2019, the ministries of Public Works and Transport, Labour and Vocational Training, and Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction are to receive significant rises compared to 2018.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said no changes were made to the proposed budget from the Ministry of Finance that was put forward for approval by the Council of Ministers on Friday.
“There were no changes made to the draft budget proposed by the Ministry of Finance. It will be sent to the national assembly [for signing],” he said.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said the lack of transparency and openness in consultation when drafting the budget remained a challenge for civil society.
“We still see there is limited openness in consultation when drafting budgets. I am, therefore, concerned that the spending is not going on actually address the problems [facing Cambodia]."
“The four main sectors that really need serious [spending] reforms are agriculture, health, education and transport. The farmers need support from the government to adapt to the changing climate, for example,” he said.