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Aid Without Reform Could Make Cambodia a 'Beggar' Nation, Activist Says

Aid without reform and strict guidelines puts Cambodia at risk to become a beggar nation, solely reliant forever on foreign aid and incapable of one day functioning independently, Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development said Wednesday.

The consultative group of donors Wednesday pledged to give Cambodia $690 million in aid in 2007, raising questions about the number of years Cambodia will be reliant on aid, on how future generations will pay off foreign loans and whether the government was doing a good job with the money.

Governments must not forget that the aid is money from individual foreign taxpayers, so it should be 100 percent relevant to the Cambodian people, Seng Theary said in a VOA Khmer interview. This alone should make the annual aid pledges important to many people.

"There should be strong conditions," she said. Without them, reform won't take place. "That's why we need the donors to do more."

Continued aid without reform risked turning Cambodia into a "beggar," she said.

Projects undertaken by the government that don't succeed should be scrutinized by donors, and poor projects should not receive funding, she said.

Donors need to make sure the aid is being properly spent, and, if it isn't, they should be ready to cut it off, Seng Theary said.

Even as the aid comes in, the government ignored calls from rights groups for greater transparency on government expenditures and debt, she said.