Donors, aid agencies and government officials said Thursday the country’s new five-year development plan needs more input from the government and the public, but they applauded efforts to draft a comprehensive strategy to reduce Cambodia’s poverty.
The draft Socioeconomic Development Plan for 2001-2005 was prepared by the Ministry of Planning with technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank.
Provincial governors and ministerial officials gathering at a conference said the plan includes inaccurate data. Some of the strategies outlined in the plan do not reflect reality in poor rural areas, they said.
International aid officials said strategies outlined in the plan are insufficient and will not allow the country to reach goals in poverty reduction.
“There is a critical need of consultation within the government and with civil society, in order to make it more comprehensive,” Jean-Claude Rogiveu, deputy representative of the UN Development Program.
The government wants to reduce the number of people living below the poverty line from the current 36 percent to 31 percent by 2005.
The development plan also aims for a 6 percent annual growth in the economy, a reduction in the infant mortality rate to 65 deaths per 1,000 live births, and 90 percent of 12-year-olds completing grade 6.
To achieve those targets, the Planning Ministry suggested government actions and public development projects in various sectors from agriculture to health to environmental management.
Minister of Cabinet Sok An, who presided over the conference, said the improvement of agricultural productivity is a key to Cambodia’s economic growth.
Sok An said more attention will be given to the agriculture sector and rural development.
He also said it is critical for the government to exercise good governance and ensure partnerships with the international community, the private sector and the public.
Adopting the five-year plan as official government policy may take some time.
The plan will be refined further still, taking into account criticisms and suggestions offered Thursday.
A deputy governor of Kandal expressed concern that more farmers are becoming landless while 28 percent of the country’s agricultural land is still uncultivated.
“This is an issue related to reform of the land management. It should be taken into account,” he said.
Governors from Kratie and Kompong Chhnang said the centralized governance system should be blamed if people surveyed in a poverty assessment were not confident in local and provincial administration.
“We have nothing,” Kratie Governor Loy Sophat said. “We do not have tools available to deal with local issues—no financial resources and no autonomous [power] in decision making.”
Yoshiko Zenda, country representative of UN Population Fund, said the plan should have put more references about gender equity in the strategies and objectives.
“It is essential in Cambodia, where women who are of productive age outnumber men,” she said.