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2009 Budget Discussions Begin After Aid

Cambodian lawmakers began debating the national budget Monday, following the announcement last week of nearly $1 billion in foreign aid.

The budget without aid amounts to around $1.77 billion, with 16 percent going to education, 11 percent to health and 1.7 percent to agriculture, said Ouk Rabun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Defense and security will get the lion’s share of the budget, about 20 percent. “The 2009 national budget will be used for the operations of the ministries, such as salary, administration, mission and other works within the ministries,” he said.

“The nearly $1 billion in foreign aid will be invested directly into agriculture, health, education and infrastructure,” he said. “We cannot use this aid outside its goals, because it has conditions on aid to develop social affairs.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters after the meeting Monday foreign aid reflected the support and encouragement to Cambodia’s development and growth.

Yim Sovann, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the national budget was too small to attack Cambodia’s social problems.