Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - USAID faces big cuts but Cambodia still a "priority"

USAID faces big cuts but Cambodia still a "priority"

USAID faces big cuts but Cambodia still a "priority"

C AMBODIA remains a priority for United States aid money despite expected funding

cuts of about 40 per cent in Asia and Latin America, according to a visiting

senior official.

Carol Lancaster, deputy administrator of the US Agency

for International Development (USAID), would not say whether aid to Cambodia

would be reduced.

But she dismissed any suggestion of large-scale

cutbacks.

"All I can say is that Cambodia has to be one of the more

important countries to us in this region.

"While I can't say whether

there will be a cut or what amount of cut there will be, I think you can be

assured that we will remain engaged in Cambodia," Lancaster said Sept 18, at the

end of the four-day visit to Cambodia.

Despite expectations of cuts of up

to 40 per cent to USAID's Asia and Latin American funding, "it doesn't mean that

any single program will be cut by 40 per cent."

USAID - facing bids in

Washington to cuts its funding on the grounds the money would be better used to

help balance the federal budget - is giving $41 million to Cambodian projects

this year.

Lancaster said she had formed a more positive impression of

Cambodia on her trip than she had expected.

"I've found an active,

vibrant economy, clearly with many, many problems and obstacles to

overcome.

"I've also found an increasingly strong, it seems to me,

democratic government, again not without stumbles and

problems."

Questioned about democracy in Cambodia, she said: "I don't

think that any of us is in a position to prescribe in detail the exact make-up

of the government or every single step that it must take day by day to reach a

fully democratic condition."

Lancaster said she met with First Prime

Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and got the impression that he wanted

Cambodia to make progress every day.

"I think we want to be supportive,

we want to monitor what's happening, we want to be involved...I think as long as

the progress is being made we ought to celebrate that progress."

Asked

why Cambodia was a priority for US government funds, she said the Kingdom sat in

a very important region of the world. Also, the US' past role here meant it

should respond to the needs of Cambodia now.

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