Cambodia's new budget for the coming fiscal year is nearly $4 billion, a 10.8 per cent increase in spending from 2014, according to a government statement.
The budget, which could prove divisive, focuses on increasing salaries of civil servants and soldiers, along with increasing expenditures on health, agriculture, education, vocational training, and infrastructure.
The Council of Ministers is expected to send the draft law on next year’s national budget to the National Assembly this week for approval. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers released the statement about the budget on Friday.
“I think the draft 2015 budget law will be sent to the National Assembly on Monday or Tuesday, and it must be in the hands of the National Assembly in the first week of November”, said government spokesman Phay Siphan.
Siphan declined to give details of allocations for each government ministry before the law was officially adopted by the National Assembly.
Last year’s budget was passed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party without any input from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party due to its boycott of parliament.
Siphan said the CNRP’s presence this year would still not make a difference, since the CPP has enough votes to approve the budget itself.
“I believe that if the opposition lawmakers do not support the draft budget law, lawmakers from the ruling party can still vote and adopt it.”
Regardless of its passage, it remains unclear whether the CNRP will back the proposal.
Deputy chair of the assembly’s finance and banking commission, Son Chhay, declined to comment, referring questions to CNRP spokesmen Yim Sovann and Nhem Ponharith, who could not be reached.
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, however, said she was sceptical of the proposed budget, although she declined to comment whether the opposition party would back it at this stage in the process.
“We will support [the law] only if the investment is productive,” Sochua told the Post. “We will look at it.”
Sochua criticised the government’s stated attempt to increase salaries in the civil service and its pledge to ramp up education spending, saying it was not enough, especially compared to expected expenditure increases for defence.
“A 10 per cent increase from last year is not going to cover a major increase in salaries,” she said. “With a 22 per cent exam success rate, investment is really low in education. The minimum for even any form of reform is at least 25 per cent of the budget.”
In 2014, education spending accounted for about 9.5 per cent of the national budget, a 20 per cent hike from 2013.
Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron declined to comment on the specifics of the proposed 2015 budget, but said he had received assurances that education spending would increase.
Kem Ley, a political analyst and the founder of a new “social network” called Khmers for Khmers – which he denies is a third political party – said he hoped the CNRP would support the law as the budget “is to educate all Cambodian people”.
Ley, however, criticised the budget formulation process, saying it lacked participation from civil society and other government sectors.
In 2013, Cambodia’s government was ranked one of the world’s worst for budget transparency by the International Budget Partnership, scoring 15 out of a possible 100 points, the same score it earned in 2010.