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West ‘stingy’ with aid: premier

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Prime Minister Hun Sen, with his wife, Bun Rany, opens the International School of Phnom Penh on Saturday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

West ‘stingy’ with aid: premier

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on “stingy” developed nations to provide more aid money to the developing world, despite Cambodia being one of the globe’s most prominent recipients of donor funds.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for the International School of Phnom Penh on Saturday, Hun Sen demanded that wealthy nations live up to a longstanding pledge to donate 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) to poorer countries.

“Because those countries are stingy they become rich countries,” he said, after complaining that only smaller developed nations such as Sweden and Finland have hit the target.

The prime minister made the statement after announcing he would be flying to New York this week to make a speech at the United Nations about the Millennium Development Goals and women’s rights in Cambodia.

The development goals are a set of eight targets outlined by the United Nations at its Millennium Summit in 2000 aimed at addressing global challenges, such as extreme poverty, infant mortality and gender inequality, by 2015.

According to a United Nations analysis made at the time the targets were set, all of the developing world’s goals could be achieved if developed countries provided 0.7 per cent of their GNP in assistance.

As of 2013, just five European nations reported doing so, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom, while US aid sat at 0.19 per cent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Yet Cambodia is a major benefactor of global aid, with yearly takings increasing from under $600 million dollars in 2006 to more than $800 million dollars by 2012, despite vast quantities being lost to persistent and widespread corruption.

During the speech, Hun Sen also called for professors and teachers in Cambodia to stop having to pay taxes in their home countries, so they can instead provide more to Cambodia.

“I wish that rich countries would not take taxes from those professors, allowing them to pay them to Cambodia, because Cambodia is poor,” he said.

But according to political analyst Ou Virak the benefits of aid remain limited, while the government could do much more by clamping down on graft among the country’s elite.

“What’s needed to get a poor country out of poverty is for leaders to help their own people,” he said. “Aid is not as effective as competitiveness or environments where business can flourish and corruption is minimised and rule of law prevails.”

Virak also questioned Hun Sen’s logic on calling for teachers to pay more in tax while Cambodian elites live lavish lifestyles from incomes that appear to far exceed their official salaries.

“We don’t know how they are making these incomes but apparently they are not paying their fair share of income tax compared to middle income people,” he said.

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