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Analysts Suggest Now Is the Time To Replace Aging, Ineffective Officials

Ministry of Public Works And Transport​ along Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia on August 8, 2015. (Sou Pisen/ VOA Khmer)

In a speech to the Interior Ministry this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was considering a ministerial reshuffle.

Cambodia’s ministries are run by an increasingly aged demographic. Some analysts say the government should consider beginning to replace the people in many of these posts with younger officials.

This, they say, will lead to positive reform in the government and help the country develop more quickly. That includes looking at those officials who are most inactive in their jobs.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, told VOA Khmer that the current government needs restructuring in the ministries, following a broad, sweeping review.

“I say that the surgical time should be here by now,” he said. “In fact, it should have been a long time ago. And some institutions that we never get to see clearly should have a thoroughly scrutinized assessment on what we call ‘performance’ to find out the reason there’s no progress.”

In a speech to the Interior Ministry this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was considering a ministerial reshuffle. Some ministries, particularly Public Works and Transport, were at an “F” level, he said. He blamed infighting and rivalries in some ministries for the failure of daily performance.

Hun Sen was responding to news of a heavily loaded truck that crashed carrying 70 tons of rice, partially destroying Neak Leung bridge, along a major thoroughfare into the city.

“The time has come, because I offered you time for many years to take bath, look in the mirror, and clean off the dirt,” Hun Sen said. “Now, it has reached the healing stage for the disease.”

San Chey, a fellow with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia, which supports transparency in government, said a reshuffle must be made to improve public services. However, he cautioned against ignoring civil society and the public in the process. Transparency, including evaluations, will be necessary, he added.

The Ministry of Public Works is particularly in need of review and reform, he said. Road construction and maintenance are both insufficient, he said; roads are poorly made, easily damaged and are rarely fixed.

Ministry spokesman Va Sim Soriya declined to comment directly to Hun Sen’s criticism, but he said ministry workers are doing their best to fulfill their duties.

Kem Ley, a political analyst, said the bridge incident and Hun Sen’s suggestion for a reshuffle should be a call to reform each ministry, and even reduce the number of ministries.

“First, they must scale down the number of the ministries by 10,” he said. “Second, they have to scale down the number of ministers, meaning there is one minister and deputy ministry or one secretary of state in each ministry. Third, they have to delegate clearly the power of each ministry. Fourth, they have to put young players who are qualified and who have potential, and the aged who are ministers could become advisers, professors teaching at the universities, and people who offer initiatives to compile documents and write books about their experience for the next generation. I think this would be much better.”