Although the ministries of health, education and rural development had still underspent by December, they spent considerably more of the money they were allocated in the 2004 budget law than they did in 2003, according to Ministry of Economy and Finance provisional figures for the period obtained Monday.
Though the Ministry of Interior spent a higher percentage of its allocated budget than the social ministries in 2004, it did not drastically overspend as it did in 2003, according to the data.
The statistics—covering January to December 2004—also show that the government generated about $27 million more in tax revenue than the $366 million it had aimed for in the budget law. The data show a vast improvement on 2003, when the government collected about $48 million less in taxes than the $354 million it had sought.
“The [figures] are a very positive sign,” said Kang Chandararot, executive director of the independent Cambodia Institute of Development Study.
“There is an obvious improvement in revenue collection and [the government has] also improved in [its] spending policy,” he said.
“Maybe it reflects the engagement of donors in reforming the Ministry of Economics and Finance and also spending discipline in key ministries,” he added.
By December 2004, the Health Ministry had spent about 84 percent—or $48 million—of the $56.6 million it was allocated, according to the data.
By December 2003, the ministry had only spent about 59 percent of its annual budget.
Provisional figures obtained earlier this month detailing spending for the 11-month period from January to November 2004 showed that the Health Ministry had only spent 35 percent of its annual budget.
Those figures, which are dated Jan 12, may have been compiled too fast to be accurate, Kang Chandararot said.
By December, the Education Ministry had spent about 92 percent—or $81 million—of the $88 million it was allocated, according to the figures.
In 2003, the ministry spent about 79 percent of its budget.
“The ministries of health and education get a large increase [in funds] every year,” Hang Chhoun Naron, secretary-general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said Monday.
By December 2004, the Ministry or Rural Development had spent about 70 percent—or $4.1 million—of the $5.8 million it was allocated, according to the data. The previous year it spent only about 54 percent of its budget.
The Interior Ministry, which spent 167 percent of its budget during 2003, had spent only about 97 percent of its budget—or $41.8 million—by December 2004.
The Ministry of Defense had spent about 98 percent—or $68 million—of the $69 million it was allocated by December 2004.
Kang Chandararot said the improvement in tax collection was a very good sign for the country.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s desire to address tax collection problems was revealed in December, when he fired the director of the Finance Ministry’s tax department, Hong Tha, and offered incentives to those who apprehend smugglers, Kang Chandararot said.
“Something happened during last year, which is especially obvious in the activities of officials from the tax department, customs officials and also the economic police, in cracking down on smuggling,” Kang Chandararot said.
Kang Chandararot said he believed the figures were an accurate reflection of reality and had not been manipulated.
But opposition lawmaker Son Chhay called the statistics into question, noting that serious underspending has been a problem at key ministries since before 1993.
“They adjust [the figures] just to look good,” Son Chhay alleged.