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Opposition Worries Japan Disaster Could Hurt Aid Money

A man looks at the stock price board on a street in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2011.
A man looks at the stock price board on a street in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2011.

Opposition leaders say Japan’s earthquake and tsunami woes will affect aid coming to Cambodia in future years, underscoring the importance of economic independence.

The Japanese government said this week the disaster would not affect its aid to Cambodia, signing a $94 million aid package on Tuesday.

However, following the devastating tsunami in Japan on Friday, opposition officials said Tuesday they were concerned one of Cambodia’s largest donors will not be able to sustain its level of aid.

“We face difficulties exporting our goods abroad,” opposition leader Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer. “And countries that usually give much aid to this country, when they face a problem like Japan is today, they clearly reduce their assistance to us.”

Japan has been one of Cambodia’s largest donors, giving nearly $2 billion in aid packages since 1992. Cambodia relies on about $1 billion in aid annually to support its budget.

Kem Sokha, head of the minority oppsotion Human Rights Party, said that even if the Japanese government continued its aid for the near future, it will need to save money for its own rehabilitation after the tsunami.

“In following years, I am sure it will be cut,” he said. “That’s first. Secondly, relating to some goods that are imported from Japan, this can raise the prices, because Japan will stop producing them, such as some cars.”

In light of the potential loss of funding, both party leaders urged the government to promote Cambodia’s economic growth to move away from its dependency on aid money.

“I would say the government should consider issues of finding economic income on its own, such as beneficial investments,” Kem Sokha said. “Don’t [let] all the benefits go only to powerful, big businessmen. Allow much of the benefit to go to the nation, such as in effective tax collection.”

Sam Rainsy said the government should follow the examples of neighboring countries that have stopped taking external assistance, “to properly prepare the economy by way of progress.”

“Then we surely will not completely depend on foreign aid, like today,” he said.