$400M Needed to Strengthen Local Gov’t, Officials Say

Interior Minister Sar Kheng announced last week that the government needs an estimated $400 million over the next three years to fund reforms that would hand over more resources and power to local authorities.

Mr Kheng said during a workshop last week that the government re­quired these funds for the so-called Decentralization and Decon­centration reform process, according to the Na­tional Commit­tee for Sub-National Dem­o­cratic Develop­ment’s website.

He said foreign donors had so far “planned to support an estimated $124 million” to the program. Ny Boret, an evaluation and monitoring officer at the NCDD, explained yesterday that the program, started in 2003, intends to transfer powers and provide funding and training to local authorities.

He said the program also included rural infrastructure development, which made up most of the program costs. Mr Boret said the reforms were necessary, as strong­er local governance would lead to better support for local development.

“The central government wants to transfer power…because the local government knows more about the local situation,” he said, adding that future programs would focus on training and funding district authorities.

Mr Boret said donors would have to provide most of the program funding, but he added there was “a very high chance” the re­quested funding would be approved. Koul Panha, di­rector of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, welcomed the plan­ned support for local authorities, who remain underfunded.

Provincial, district and commune authorities received only 6 percent of total government expenditures in 2008, according to a recent report from the UN Capital Development Fund. Mr Panha said, however, he had “doubts about the delivery of [decentralization] money to local authorities,” adding that the government should be held accountable for how these funds are spent, while the process should lead to increased ac­cess of citizens to authorities.

He said although implementation of the decentralization process had so far been “very, very slow,” donors were likely to fund it because, compared to other national reform programs, the decentralization process was “still moving.”

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