Donors Defend Aid, Despite Missed Targets

A day after the UN released a report that showed Cambodia would miss most of its 2015 poverty reduction targets, donors defend­ed the aid given over the past de­c­ade and vowed to streamline their efforts, but called on the government to accelerate much-needed reforms.

“It is widely acknowledged that Cambodia has not made as much progress on social indicators as they and we would like to see,” Nisha Agrawal, head of the World Bank’s office in Phnom Penh, said by telephone Thursday. “All the donors are now rallying around the [UN’s Millennium Develop­ment Goals]. But the government needs to step up the pace as well,” Agrawal said.

In 2000, the government signed the Millennium Declaration and committed itself to the Millennium Development Goals, a set of poverty reduction targets supposed to be achieved by 2015.

The UN report released yesterday revealed that Cambodia is far from reaching its goals of halving poverty, significantly reducing child mortality for under 5-year-olds and providing universal ac­cess to lower and secondary education.

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank said Thursday they are now in the process of coordinating their efforts to better allocate the money that flows into the country.

“Financial assistance is limited from all sides,” said Anthony Jude, an official with the Asian Development Bank. “We can’t do miracles.” But he defended the progress made since 1992, when donor agen­cies were starting at “ground zero.” He said, “Now there is the resemblance of a national road map in place. We didn’t have that four years ago.”

Cooperation between donors is something the country has also lacked in recent years.

“Aid coordination has been a big problem in Cambodia,” said Russell Peterson, representative of the NGO Forum. “Donors are now starting to address this, but there is a long way to go.”

Conflict often emerges because different donors have set the various development goals, and there is little coordination between national planning, sectoral planning and decentralization planning, Peterson said. All of these different plans have different time frames for implementation.

“These have to start being linked together,” he said.

The government’s budget ex­pen­ditures last year were also not linked with the National Poverty Reduction Strategy, an all-encompassing development plan, a joint World Bank and ADB report re­vealed last year.

“To implement the [National Po­v­erty Reduction Strategy] and meet the localized Millennium De­velopment Goals the Govern­ment will need to reallocate re­sources away from non-priority sec­tors and programs,” the report said.

Robert Hagemann, resident representative of the International Monetary Fund, wrote in a recent e-mail that “priority spending has been a challenge for the government, but the government has also taken measures to address the difficulties in implementing such spending.”

An inter-ministerial task force was formed last year to address the execution of priority spending, Hagemann said. “The work of the task force has been very helpful, even if much progress remains to be achieved,” he added.


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