Gov’t Approves $1.89 Billion Budget for 2009

The government Friday ap­proved a draft law on the proposed budget for 2009, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers.

The newly augmented budget, which is projected at $1.89 billion for 2009—up from $1.25 billion in 2008—will better allow the government to “boost the anti-poverty plan and promote peoples’ living standards,” according to the statement.

Finance Ministry Secretary-Gen­eral Hang Chuon Naron said the proposed budget increase is a re­flection of successful financial re­forms over the past few years and will mean an increase in spending in nearly every area, though he said it was too soon for a more detailed breakdown.

On average, revenues have in­creased by 25 percent over the past three years, he said, adding that government deposits now total more than $500 million.

“We increased expenditures because we have collected enough taxes,” said Finance Ministry Sec­re­tary of State Ou Bunlong, adding that areas including education, agriculture, rural development, health and women’s affairs will be prioritized in the coming year.

SRP lawmaker Cheam Channy said the budget increase is mainly due to the increased size of the new government and won’t necessarily equate to expanded programs, though he said he hoped more mo­ney would go toward defense.

“The government’s new cabinet is bigger than before…. It will be a waste of the budget,” he said.

On Friday in the wake of fighting at Preah Vihear, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would push for increased defense spending.

Cheam Channy said he believed systematized corruption still cuts into the revenue collected and that he isn’t optimistic the government will be able to meet their projected needs.

“Corruption has reduced the tax­es collection,” he said. “[With] the global [financial] crisis and the local real estate businesses in decline…. I don’t think that the government would meet revenue,” he added.

Also Friday, the Council of Min­is­ters approved 2007 expenditures, when the budget was $1.1 billion.

In 2007, according to the statement, the government collected 4,202,073 million riel (more than $1 billion), but spent only 3,417,187 million riel (about $850 million).

            (Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)

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