Official decries CNRP plan to slash ministry budgets

Opposition leader Kem Sokha (centre) speaks at a commune election campaign rally on Saturday, where he proposed to shutter the Rural Development Ministry.
Opposition leader Kem Sokha (centre) speaks at a commune election campaign rally on Saturday, where he proposed to shutter the Rural Development Ministry. Pha Lina

Official decries CNRP plan to slash ministry budgets

Government spokesman Phay Siphan lashed out at opposition leader Kem Sokha over a proposal to slash ministry spending, saying that Sokha’s “sad and surprising” policy was another indication that the CNRP does not know how to govern or develop Cambodia.

“The dissolution of the Ministry of Rural Development [MRD] will not only destroy the development of rural farmers who have never voted for the party, but will also affect civil servants . . . serving the masses,” Siphan said on Facebook on Monday.

In a speech on Saturday, Sokha pledged to dismantle entirely the MRD, which primarily implements local development and infrastructure projects, and slash all other ministries by 20 percent in a bid to fight corruption and free up funds to be given directly to communes.

“The budget must provide money for the development of roads and irrigation canals in our communes . . . Do you want money to be with [MRD] and for you to beg for it from them, or do you want to have the money in the commune to make development yourself?” Sokha asked at the rally.

Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan speaks to the media in 2015 after an event in Phnom Penh.
Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan speaks to the media in 2015 after an event in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

The CNRP has also pledged to divert funds from the national budget to supply each of the more than 1,600 communes directly with a yearly stipend of $500,000 for local projects. According to government budget data, Sokha’s proposed cuts would free up over $900 million, more than enough to cover the roughly $800 million worth of commune budget boosts.

Siphan yesterday called the proposal another example of the CNRP attempting to reform something that already works. “He never raised the issue in the National Assembly,” Siphan said, claiming that pushing it now was akin to “buying votes”.

Preap Kol, director of Transparency International Cambodia, when asked if the plan would reduce corruption, said the idea was an “appropriate policy”.

“However, this alone cannot guarantee that corruption can be reduced unless effective measures are taken to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of the fund,” Kol added.

Political analyst Meas Ny said the idea was sound, but could alienate voters, and even worse, cause mass strikes of government employees if the CNRP were to take power and seek to implement the plan.

“I support the idea,” Ny said, while adding that the CNRP needs to “be careful”, and should have developed a more thorough transition strategy before announcing the plan.

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