Communes To Receive $22 Million Surplus

Commune councils will receive the bulk of an extra $22 million from the government and international donors to spend on local inf­rastructure projects in 2009, officials said Tuesday.

The boost over the 2008 budget was announced at the start of a two-day workshop to discuss the 2009 budget of the National Committee for the Management of De­cen­tral­ization and Deconcentration, or NCDD, the oversight body for all sub-national management including commune councils.

Sak Setha, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s local administration department, said the budget increase is due to a bigger commitment from private donors who support decentralizing government decision-making and giving more power to lower-level officials.

The $82 million budget for 2009 includes $26 million from the government, $17 million from the UK, Sweden and UNDP, $15 million from the World Bank, $9 million from the Asian Development Bank and $15 million from 12 other countries and organizations.

Most of the extra cash will boost infrastructure such as roads, schools and bridges, though the newly pass­ed Organic Law on ad­min­is­trative management will place a drain on the new funds, Sak Setha said.

The Organic Law, which be­came effective in May, provides for new layers of subnational administration and places more power in the hands of the provinces, with commune councils earmarked to elect municipal, provincial and district councils in May 2009.

The 2009 budget does not specifically allot money for implementing the Organic Law or for organizing next May’s subnational elections.

UNDP Decentralization Adviser Jacinta Barrins said in an e-mail that supporting the NCDD can “in­crease democratic accountability and pov­erty reduction in the years ahead.”

About 60 percent of the 2009 budget will go directly into the hands of com­mune councils, NCDD Pro­gram Support Team Dir­ector Chhieng Yanara said at the workshop, adding that despite the in­creased budget, councils will still face funding challenges be­cause of rising inflation.

Opening the workshop, which was attended by all provincial governors, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said decentralizing the government would strengthen monetary efficiency, transparency and accountability.

To help oversee disbursement of funds, NCDD President and Int­er­ior Minister Sar Kheng on Monday signed a prakas for each provincial governor to form a rural development committee and an executive committee to evaluate the activities of commune councilors and how they spend the NCDD budget.

The NCDD must finalize its budget by December and forward it to the National Assembly for approval.

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