US funding for Cambodia is slated to drop 25 percent in the fiscal year 2008, going from $54.9 million in fiscal year 2006 to $40.9 million, a US Embassy spokesman said Wednesday.
“The projected cuts in funding in fiscal year 2008 are unrelated to conditions in Cambodia, and are a function of a tight budgetary environment in Washington and a realignment of global development priorities,” Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail.
Funding for anti-human trafficking, promotion of labor rights and political party development after the 2008 national elections will no longer be “focus areas” for US assistance, Daigle said.
US assistance will now be targeted on developing democratic institutions, strengthening peace and security, establishing a health system that can respond to infectious disease outbreaks, and encouraging market-driven economic growth, Daigle added.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that since the US does not provide much direct assistance to the Cambodian government, the proposed cuts would not be felt deeply. “The US cutting funds would not affect the government’s programs and the government’s budget,” he said.
Cheam Yeap added that Cambodia has a wealth of other donors it can turn to for assistance. “China also gives us a lot of money for infrastructure,” he said.
SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua said the proposed cuts could negatively affect Cambodians. “2008 is a crucial year because it’s an election year,” she said. “Cutting funding for political parties could have an effect on the democratic process.”
She also questioned why the US, which she said has positioned itself as a global leader in the fight on human trafficking, would cut funds now.
She added that labor rights are a crucial factor in Cambodia’s economic growth. Cuts in funding for labor rights could, she said, have a chilling effect on independent unions.
“There is probably no one single explanation for the aid reduction; but corruption, donor fatigue, lack of results, and competing global priorities are all plausible reasons,” a US congressional aide wrote in an e-mail from Washington on condition of anonymity.
The proposed reduction comes as relations between the two nations have been warming. The US recently gave the Cambodian military direct assistance, in the form of non-lethal equipment and training, for the first time in nearly a decade. Last month, US President George W Bush signed a budgetary resolution for 2007 that lifted a decade-old ban on direct assistance to the Cambodian