The Cambodian government on Friday approved a $5 billion draft budget for 2017, including a large increase in funding for the security services.
The budget will see an increase of more than 15 percent of total spending compared with 2016, up from $4.3 billion, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers.
The major departments receiving additional funding included $822 million for the Ministry of National Defense, an increase of more than a fifth on 2016 spending; the Ministry of Finance, which will receive $322 million; and the Ministry of Social Affairs, which will receive $1.19 billion.
Sok Eysan, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said on Friday that spending had been decided “based on our ability” and “in order to assist the standard of living of the people.”
A large part of the increase was intended to cover recently announced increases in civil servants’ salaries.
Eysan did not specify how much debt the government would incur as a result of the additional spending.
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said a continued lack of accountability in government expenses was a cause of concern.
“We want to have roads in Cambodia maintained and built with transparency and open information,” he said.
Corruption remained endemic, he added, with anti-corruption efforts seeing poor progress and the situation not helped by the continued absence of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party from parliament.
The opposition continues to boycott parliament over what it says is a deliberate use of the judiciary to target its members and leadership.
The announcement of the draft national budget came a week after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Phnom Penh, writing off almost $90 million in debt and pledging to support the development of Cambodia’s military.
Gov’t Ramps Up Defense Spending in New $5bn Budget