2014 Draft Budget Passes First Round in One-Party Parliament

Still absent any input from the opposition CNRP, the country’s $3.54 billion draft budget for 2014 took another step toward becoming law Monday when CPP lawmakers passed the spending bill on to the National Assembly’s finance committee for approval.

CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Cheam Yeap, who chairs the Assembly’s finance committee, said approval is the final step before the draft faces a full debate and a vote by the As­sembly, in which the CNRP is still refusing to take its 55 seats because of its ongoing dispute with the CPP over the validity of July’s national election.

Mr. Yeap said the draft was passed on to his committee without changes after a meeting Monday of the Assembly’s permanent committee, which consists of the chairs of the Assembly’s nine standing committees, Assembly President Heng Samrin and his two deputies—all of whom are CPP members.

He said newly appointed Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth will answer questions on the draft from the finance committee on Wednesday.

“I called Mr. Aun Porn Moni­roth to ask him whether he can come to defend the budget the day after tomorrow [Wednesday]; he said he could come,” Mr. Yeap said.

Mr. Porn Moniroth could not be reached for comment.

Neither the Finance Ministry, the National Assembly nor Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cabinet, which approved the draft budget last month, have provided details on how the money—about $400 million more than the budget for 2013—would be spent.

When asked why budget details were not being shared with the public at this late stage, Mr. Yeap referred the question to Mr. Samrin. However, Mr. Samrin declined to answer questions as he was leaving Monday’s meeting and his cabinet chief, Keo Piseth, said he did not know why the budget was not being shared with the public.

Neither Mr. Yeap nor Mr. Piseth would say when the draft might reach the floor of the Assembly.

The Law on Public Finance states that the draft budget will reach the Senate by the first week of December after it passes in the National Assembly.

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