Donors: Pressure Not Key to Gov’t Reform

Donor countries and institutions have pledged $951.5 million in as­sis­tance to Cambodia, including $257 million from China, Finance Mi­nister Keat Chhon announced Fri­day at the end of the two-day Cam­­bodia Development Co­op­er­a­tion Forum with donors.

Following China, the second largest pledge came from the Eu­ro­pe­an Union with $214 million, and Ja­pan followed in third place with $112.3 million, Keat Chhon told a news conference.

He declined to give further break­downs of the pledged aid, say­ing that the figures are “confidential.” The total sum of aid pled­ged, he added, will surpass $1 billion when other contributions are included.

The US government is expected to announce its pledge next year, following the inaugur­a­tion of President-elect Barack Oba­ma, a US Embassy official said Thursday.

Last year donors pledged $690 million, and Keat Chhon said the amount of aid this year demonstrated international confidence in the government.

“In short, I can say conceptually and in terms of figures, we have had great success in mobilization of aid,” he said.

“[Donors] know we are serious and that we have good performance. If we didn’t have good performance they would not continue.”

Several representatives of donor countries interviewed during the con­ference said that the government had performed well in certain are­as, such as fiscal reform, health and education, but had fallen short in others, particularly the passing of an anticorruption law, cleaning up the ju­diciary and implementation of the land law.

“For these problems of reform which are lagging behind we would like to see more political will,” German Ambassador Frank Mann said on the sidelines of the con­ference on Friday.

“The anticorruption law has been on the table for 14 years…. We heard a strong commitment from the Prime Minister but not a timeline” on its adoption, he said.

And despite four years of double digit GDP growth, Mann said eco­no­mic growth and investment could have been higher if more re­forms had been made earlier.

“We still have a long way to go, es­pecially when you look at the amount of poor people in the country,” he added.

Tom Barthel Hansen, head re­pre­sentative for the Danish In­ter­na­tio­nal Development Agency said donors must consider what is plausible in terms of reform timelines, and he rejected criticism that do­nors need to apply more pressure on the government.

“We have to work together to find solutions,” Barthel Hansen said. “Of course you can have criticism but it’s not good to just have criticism.”

Even with the slow progress in the anticorruption law, judicial reform and implementation of land reform, he said a lack of aid would have led to far less progress.

“Of course there are things that are not going as quickly as we want them to, but this is the nature of development.”

World Bank Country Director Qimiao Fan also said that pressure was not the answer.

“Our support is based on our belief that our support will help Cambodia to help to protect the poor,” Fan said.

“It’s not up to the development partners to pressure the government to undertake reforms be­cause ultimately these reforms need to be implemented in these countries by the government and by its own people,” he said.

Still, the World Bank issued a statement on Friday announcing that it is providing nearly $22 million for the four-year “Demand for Good Governance Project,” which will encourage citizen involvement in good governance issues, according to a news release calling cor­ruption a “major impediment to efficient and effective government, with a disproportionate impact on the poor.”


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