Assembly’s Finance Commission Requests More Details on Budget

The National Assembly’s banking and finance commission met Monday to discuss the proposed $3.8-billion budget for 2015, with lawmakers from both parliamentary parties agreeing that more specific details are needed before they can evaluate the plan, according to the commission’s deputy chairman, Son Chhay.

Mr. Chhay, a senior lawmaker for the opposition CNRP, said the four lawmakers from his party on the committee, as well as the five from the ruling CPP, had scheduled a meeting with Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth for later this month.

“We cannot tell you everything; that was a request by the chair. But I can say we looked into the draft and found quite a number of issues that we will raise when we meet with the minster as we plan on the 24th of November,” Mr. Chhay said.

“There was one common ground that we all seemed to agree on: that we need more documents to allow us to have the data to raise [issues] with the government, including on the revenue as well as the expenditure,” he said.

The CPP government late last month released its broad proposals for spending and revenue across each ministry, but the CNRP has been pushing for more detailed breakdowns that would allow those outside the government to better evaluate the budget.

The CPP’s Cheam Yeap, chairman of the finance commission, could not be reached for comment. Mr. Yeap has in recent years served as a de facto CPP spokesman, but his personal assistant Bul Lakim said Monday afternoon that the long-serving lawmaker was no longer available to media.

Council of Ministers spokes- man Phay Siphan said he was unsure whether the government would heed Mr. Chhay’s request to release more comprehensive details about the $3.8 billion draft budget before it is sent to the National Assembly.

“Well, I have no idea. I think Son Chhay has a mandate to request more details on that,” Mr. Siphan said. “He has the right to ask that to the Ministry of Finance and Economics or he can wait until a plenary session to ask a question on it.”

Mr. Chhay last week sent such a letter to Mr. Porn Moniroth, the finance minister, to request details about the budget. But Mr. Chhay said on Sunday that it was returned to him without any response because he had identified himself in the letter as the finance committee’s deputy chairman without getting Mr. Yeap’s approval.

Finance Ministry secretary-general Hel Chamroeun declined to comment Monday on whether his ministry would release significantly more details about the budget in the coming weeks.

“Everything is now in the hands of parliament, so no information has been released publicly yet as it’s at the discussion stage,” Mr. Chamroeun said. He added, however, that a seminar to be held at the National Assembly next Tuesday would be open to the public and provide some more details about the budget.

The CPP holds a majority in parliament, with 68 of the 123 National Assembly seats, and will be able to pass the 2015 budget without contest. Mr. Chhay said it was standard that a proposed budget is passed by the National Assembly no later than the third week of December.

willemyns@cambodiadaily.com, reaksmey@cambodiadaily.com

© 2014, Alex Willemyns. All rights reserved.