2001 Budget Proposal Draws Lawmakers’ Praise, Concerns

Opposition lawmakers Thurs-day gave cautious praise to the government for increasing the amount given to social services in the proposed 2001 budget to $127.1 million. 

But they said the 29.5 percent of the budget targeted for national security is still too high.

“Your figures look very good on paper, but you never honor what you have promised,” Sam Rainsy said as the National As-sembly began debate on the 2001 budget. “We as MPs are fed up with your figures on paper.”

Minister of  Defense Tea Banh, who usually doesn’t like to speak publicly, told the assembly the reduced defense budget is not enough to maintain military equipment and weapons.

He said his ministry will re-ceive only 19.5 percent of the budget. “Our defense budget has decreased step-by-step from 46 percent in 1994,” he said. “Now we are unable to do anything much. About 70 percent of this year’s budget is for salary.”

Sam Rainsy also voiced support for teacher raises, suggesting wages of about $103 per month for those who live in urban areas and about $77 a month for those who live in rural areas.

But Minister of Finance Keat Chhon said the government won’t be giving teachers raises soon.

“We cannot give any more raises in these times when our government is in financial difficulty,” Keat Chhon said, adding that if teachers were offered raises every year, the government would face a payroll crisis.

Speaking directly to Sam Rainsy, Keat Chhon said: “You, economist, may think it over. If some raise is made [that equals] even 1 percent of the GDP, it severely affects the macro-economic balance. Then fluctuation of prices in the market will occur.”

Keat Chhon added that the teachers have been offered better raises than other civil servants.

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