Parliament set to mull $3.75b budget

Parliament set to mull $3.75b budget

Education and health are set to receive large boosts in funding next year, according to the draft budget waiting approval at the National Assembly, which outlines total government spending of $3.75 billion.

Although the Council of Ministers announced last week that the new budget would be closer to $4 billion, spokesman Phay Siphan said the draft waiting approval by the National Assembly should be trusted as the official budget request.

“After cabinet meetings, it’s not official until any drafts reach the national assembly … The government reserves the right to modify,” he said yesterday. Siphan, however, could not explain the reason for the significant drop.

The draft budget allocates $324 million to the health ministry, up 32.8 per cent from $244 million. Education is set to receive $453 million, up 35.2 per cent from $335 million.

The ministries of interior and defence are, in comparison, set to receive about $536 million in total, up just 9.6 per cent from $489 million in 2014.

The draft budget leaves $608 million unallocated, still a concern for anti-corruption groups but far less than the $1.5 billion left unallocated when last year’s $3.4 billion budget was passed by a single-party parliament.

The draft expects some $2.4 billion to be raised from tax revenues. Another $366 million is projected to come from non-tax revenues.

Bilateral aid will make up just $134 million of the budget, while Cambodia will rely on loans to finance almost $800 million worth of spending.

Opposition whip Son Chhay, who serves as deputy head of the parliamentary commission on finance and banking, said his party would aim to rigorously debate the draft.

“I cannot really trust the numbers, having worked on government budgets in the last 20 years. The numbers mean nothing and they will spend differently when it comes into practice,” he said.

“We demand a more detailed budget, what it will be spent on. We want to know so we can monitor.”

This article corrects an earlier version that misstated percentage increases in the budget for the ministries of health, education, interior and defence.

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