The Cambodian government opened a two-day donor meeting Thursday, lobbying for additional aid to the national budget for the development of the country.
Opening the annual Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, Prime Minister Hun Sen assured the 17 donor countries and agencies, which yearly contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to state coffers, of Cambodia’s continued commitment to good governance and the tackling of corruption, a key point for many donors.
Addressing a much-anticipated anti-corruption law, which has remained in draft stage for more than a decade, Hun Sen said the government was “well aware” that the law “is an indispensable legal instrument to fight corruption effectively.”
Hun Sen assured donors the government was “strongly committed to ensure rapid conclusion and adoption of this law in close consultation with all concerned parties.” Meanwhile, he said, Cambodia’s were expected to average a per capita income of $625 per year, an increase of nearly 10 percent per year since 1999.
The government was also continuing work on decentralization, he said.
The Cambodian government has been criticized for the centralization of power around Hun Sen and key members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
Hun Sen pointed out that this year’s donor meeting was being held amid a global financial crisis, but he said the country’s banking sector remained “sound” and “not seriously affected by the global financial cataclysm.”
He called land reform “the most sensitive area” for the government, “due to outstanding issues in the past.”
In recent years, Cambodia’s rural population has been widely upset through illegal land sales, land-grabs and other schemes, often undertaken by powerful officials in collaboration with private businesses. The government was responding with a number of measures, Hun Sen said, adding “the systematic land registration has been greatly welcomed by the rural people.”
Finance Minister Keat Chhon declined to estimate the amount of aid Cambodia could receive this year, but Reuters news service reported that figure could be as much as $900 million. By comparison, the government was pledged $690 million last year.
Meanwhile, the international community pushed the government to pass the anti-corruption law, calling it necessary for investment and development and a buffer against the global financial downturn.
“Passing the law will be an important signal, providing investors and development partners with the confidence to make more long-term commitments in Cambodia,” said Qimiao Fan, the World Bank’s country manager. “Strengthening transparency and accountability in the management of public finances and natural resources will help secure the scale and type of investments required to sustain growth through the downturn and beyond.”