The development of elected commune governments in Cambodia has already exceeded the government’s capacity to support them, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday.
Deconcentration—the delegation of tasks from the central government to the municipal and provincial level—must now catch up with the progress of decentralization, or the handover of power and responsibility to the commune councils, the premier said.
“Decentralization alone cannot sustain the success of the elections without the support from deconcentration,” Hun Sen told government officials, international aid agencies and NGOs at the closing of a two-day conference at the Ministry of Interior.
“Although deconcentration has made great progress, it is still slower than decentralization.”
The central government cannot and should not bear the burden of supporting 1,621 commune governments, Hun Sen said, but other levels of government are not yet up to the task.
Of Cambodia’s 24 provinces and municipalities, 17 already have an apparatus in place to support commune-level government. Hun Sen appealed to the international community to help both the other seven communes and the systems operating elsewhere.
Decentralization, believed in development circles to greatly contribute to empowering the rural poor and improving their lot, has drawn attention from Cambodia’s donors.
Now that the elections have set up decentralized government in Cambodia, the issue will be a high priority, observers said. It will be one of the items discussed at next month’s donor meeting.