Budget Cuts Defense, Boosts Health, Education Spending

Amid protests from opposition lawmakers, the National Assem­bly on Friday approved Cam­bodia’s draft 2001 budget that, at least on pap­er, better funds the country’s so­cial services.

The proposed $652 million budget decreases military spending while funneling more money to health care and education. It is the first budget proposal to do so since 1993, with pressure coming from the international community to reduce Cambodia’s bloated military and better address its social ills.

But critics of Cambodia’s tendency to over-fund its security forces say the financial plan still leaves important areas of the civil sector lacking money. They are skeptical that defense won’t benefit from year-end windfalls found in other government sectors.

Calling the draft budget “leftover stuff from other regimes,” op­position party leader Sam Rain­sy said, “I cannot accept it, I raised my hand for none of the articles.”

Sam Rainsy used the budget de­bate to blast land sales and other revenue-generating programs he claimed are practiced by the military and political parties, particularly in the provinces.

“This opens the way for corruption,” Sam Rainsy said.

He also accused the government of misusing donations meant for schools and other civil projects but was rebuffed by CPP lawmaker Ek Samol, who told him, “If you cannot praise, it is better to stay calm.”

The draft budget is expected to pass easily through the Senate before going before the King to be approved.



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