The government has received promises of $1.3 billion in aid from donors for the next three years and is working to secure some $450 million more in pledges by the end of next week’s Consultative Group meeting, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Thursday.
Broken down over three years, the figure amounts to a request for aid of $583 million a year, up from the $504 million pledged by donors at the last CG meeting in 2004.
Keat Chhon said that over the three-year period, the government will also commit $350 million to development programs, bringing the total amount of projected aid through 2008 to roughly $2.1 billion.
“We have had meetings with donors and now have commitments of about $1,300 million for three years and we are lacking between $450 million and $500 million for the three years,” he said.
But, Keat Chhon added: “This is not the official amount of our request, we are still working on the exact figure.”
The finance minister also responded to comments in recent days that the government-donor reform benchmarks that will be the centerpiece of the March 2 and 3 meeting have been diluted compared to those of 2004.
“We own the country, we own the problems, we are the drivers,” Keat Chhon said.
“Our duty is be responsible to the donors’ taxpayers. We have to use the correct targets.”
Keat Chhon said that compared to earlier benchmarks, the 2006 goals are more realistic.
“We are not just dreaming about flying to the moon; we have to be careful that we can achieve them,” he said. “If we put a target that cannot be done, it must not be put in.”
According to a copy of the new benchmarks obtained this week, provisions explicitly calling for the prosecution of corrupt officials and for an end to land concessions have been removed.
“If you look at the economic growth we have achieved, this is evidence that corruption is decreasing,” Keat Chhon said. “The government is working very carefully on anti-corruption.”
A donor statement released at the last CG meeting in December 2004 said “both the amount and composition of future pledges will be a function of Cambodia’s performance on the reform agenda.”
Many of those benchmarks, notably the passage of an anti-corruption law and the maintenance of a suspension of economic concessions, have not been met.
Jeffrey Sachs, the special advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, said during a visit last August that Cambodia likely needs a massive increase in foreign aid, possibly $1 billion a year, to achieve significant reduction in poverty.
UNDP spokesman Dain Bolwell said this week that the UN will announce any future increases to its aid commitments at the appropriate time.
The National Strategic Development Plan for 2006 to 2010 adopted in January calls for $3.5 billion in development expenditures over five years.