The hundreds of millions of dollars of donor money pledged to Cambodia every year is not properly benefiting Cambodia’s poor, and much of it is being squandered on international advisers, the NGO Action Aid said in a report Friday.
The report notes a widespread perception amongst government officials, donors and NGOs that international advisers have failed to “build the capacity” of Cambodians, and have instead “written numerous reports that have not been implemented, and done jobs rather than training Cambodians to do them.”
Citing data from 2000, the report states that the average cost of an international expert is $127,381 per year. In 2002, international advisers were paid nearly $78 million, the report states.
Cambodia’s civil servants, by contrast, make an average of $300 to $336 per year, it states.
“You can see donor culture in many ways…the style, the vehicles we have,” Action Aid’s Country Director Keshav Gautam said Friday. “The real issues of people are falling behind.”
The report cites a 2005 Asian Development Bank project funded by Britain’s Department for International Development, dealing with flood risk management in the Mekong River Basin.
Of the total budget of $575,000, only $140,000, or about a quarter, was allocated for NGO contracts, the report states. The remainder was allocated “to the costs of consultants, workshops and administration,” Action Aid states.
Cambodia has received about $6 billion in aid since 1993, independent economist Kang Chandararot said.
Cambodia’s post-conflict circumstances make foreign advisers a necessity, Kang Chandararot said. But, he said, they need to develop the skills of their Cambodian counterparts .
The government should also be held accountable for Cambodia’s development, observers said.
Government ministries employ ghost workers who are on the pay roll but do not attend work, wasting money that could be spent on development, said Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development.
Ministries also employ some staff, who are incompetent and whom donors don’t feel they can trust, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said.
“We don’t want to waste so much money on paying these so-called foreign experts, but we can trust them to do the job more effectively,” he said.