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Decrease in Japan Aid ‘May Be Inevitable’: Ambassador

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, left, follows Japanese Emperor Akihito, right, and Empress Michiko, center, on their way to a welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace, in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, May 17, 2010.

Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia warned on Wednesday that aid to Cambodia in the future will likely decrease as a result of the 2010 tsunami.

Japan has had to revise its fiscal budget in the wake of the calamity, Ambassador Masafumi Kuroki told VOA Khmer at the side of a donor meeting in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

“It may be inevitable,” he said.

Japan generally provides more than $100 million each year to Cambodia on a range of projects, but the country is still grappling with the enormity of the March earthquake and tsunami, which killed 25,000 people and displaced nearly half a million more.

Cambodian leaders and members of the NGO community said they worried reductions in aid would come to pass, but at the time Kuroki said aid would not immediately be affected.

Now, though, the Japanese government is working on a supplemental budget for the reconstruction of the hardest-hit areas, Kuroki said. “The question is, how much impact will be on the new budget of development assistance?”

“It’s still under consideration,” he said.

With Cambodia’s own budget in the spotlight at Wednesday’s meetings, some officials said the potential loss of some Japanese aid should be a warning for Cambodia’s reliance on assistance.

“That’s why we have urged the government to fight against corruption and to take care of state revenue, to save our resources for development,” said Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

“I don’t see any preparations made by the government to prevent such an incident from happening,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.