Finance Minister: Assembly Budget Crisis Looms

Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the National Assembly finance and banking commission on Mon­day that he is concerned the legislature’s budget will spiral out of control next year with the inauguration of the new As­sem­bly building.

He said the Assembly has allocated itself $15 million to spend in 2006, while Finance Commission Chairman Cheam Yeap said early es­timates for the 2007 budget indicate that the Assembly will spend twice as much next year.

“Everyday I worry,” Keat Chhon said. “This is another heavy expenditure for the King­dom.”

The minister said that to cope with rising expenditures, the ministry will do more to enforce the land sales tax and a 2-percent tax on unused land.

“If you make a profit from selling land, the government will tax you…if you keep empty land the country will lose profit,” he said.

Cheam Yeap said the new, 300-room National Assembly building lo­cated behind the NagaCorp Ca­s­ino will be inaugurated in April 2007.

He announced to the commission that the current building will at that point house the Supreme Court, which is currently located on Street 63.

Each lawmaker will have a private office in the building, each commission will have a chamber and each party will have a meeting hall. “If we don’t study properly, we will not have enough budget to run the operation,” Cheam Yeap said.

“If we can’t afford the expenses, the electricity and water will be cut,” he said.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said by telephone that he had collected evidence that office equipment purchased for the current Assembly had been bought at three times the market price.

“There has been no transparency in the expenditures,” he said, add­ing that much of the equipment will go unused.

“I have learned that 90 percent of lawmakers cannot use computers; why should we spend money on them?” he asked.

 

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