Donors Seek Faster Reforms

International donors told the government Monday it is making progress in promised reforms, but urged Cambodian officials to speed up their efforts.

Donors said the government should work harder to curb corruption, quicken its administration reform and strengthen budgetary reform and natural re­source management.

Urooj Malik, country representative of the Asian Development Bank, which coordinated the bi­annual donor meeting, said those efforts will improve Cambo­dians’ lives.

“Good governance is central to eliminating poverty as it impacts directly on the lives of the poor,” Malik said. “Because the poor are less able to avoid the adverse consequences of bad governance, and bear a disproportionate share of its ill effects.”

He noted that corruption keeps much-needed foreign investment out of Cambodia. He also said there is still too much spending in non-productive sectors, such as defense and security, which hampers socio-economic development.

The meeting was the first since aid agencies met with the government in May 2000 in Paris, where donors pledged $548 million in aid for one year in exchange for further government reforms.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told donors his government has made tremendous progress in reforms and has a strong commitment to push further. He said the economy has performed well and budgetary re­form has been successful, despite last year’s severe flooding.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon told donors that 2000 was not as positive as expected because of the widespread flooding, with GDP growth recorded at 4.5 percent instead of the expected 5.5 percent. But he noted that the nation has still come a long way since 1998, which marked the the end of the Khmer Rouge.

Hun Sen said the government is cracking down on illegal logging and improve forest management. He also touted the recently completed civil servants census and a new computerized central payroll.

But donors were not satisfied with all of the results.

The donors’ social sector group, for example, questioned why pro­gress in policy-making and budget allocation has not produced a significant change in social indicators, citing high child mortality rates, widespread malnutrition and high HIV infection rates.

The working group on land re­form said the government has not vigorously addressed the issue of land rights, even though more farmers have become landless in recent years and land grabbing has been increasing.

Donors also urged the government to hold consultative meetings with NGOs and donors on a draft forestry law, adopt a new forest management plan and make new contracts with logging concessionaires to crack down on illegal logging activities.

In turn, Hun Sen appealed to donors to speed up disbursement of funds for the demobilization of soldiers and other security forces.

The next Consultative Group meeting is scheduled for June in Tokyo, where Keat Chhon said he will ask for more than $500 million in aid for the coming year.



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