$1.3 Billion in Aid Promised, Says Minister

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.



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