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Groups Urges Looser Reins on Development Aid

“Capacity: Helping Countries Lead” is among Oxfam America's latest research and policy reports.
“Capacity: Helping Countries Lead” is among Oxfam America's latest research and policy reports.

Cambodia and other countries should be encouraged to develop their own plans for progress, an international development group says in a new report.

In its “Capacity: Helping Countries Lead,” Oxfam America said developing countries could benefit more from US aid if they were given room to make their own plans for it.

“We talk a lot about investing in the recipients' ability to do things for themselves, but we don’t always deliver our aid in ways that make that easy for people,” Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America, told VOA Khmer Monday. “A lot of times, we fund the things that we think poor people in developing countries need, rather than taking the time to listen to what poor people and their governments say they need.”

The report highlighted feedback from governments, civic institutions and US aid agencies themselves for better progress toward development goals.

“We believe, we know, and our experience tells us that development partners do not know what we want,” Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers said. “Only we the host country know what we want and what capacity we have in receiving assistance from development partners.”

Cambodia is heavily reliant on foreign assistance, which provides half its budget, more than $1 billion annually. The US provided $68.5 million for 2010.

Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Center, said he supported the overall idea of host countries giving more ownership of development projects to host countries.

“However,” he said, “I think that donors, including the US, should not just give a blank check to the host country.”

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, was cautiously supportive of the idea.

“Absolutely, there need to be discussions with the Cambodian people to find out the real needs, because there are some projects that benefit just small groups of people,” he said. “There are projects that benefit political supporters and their party, and as a result it hinders broad economic development in the country. Therefore, participation from all people, and especially members of parliament, is very important to ensure the benefit for the poor.”

US Embassy officials declined to comment without having seen the report.

The report noted, however, that USAID was pursuing reform in its implementation and procurement systems already.