Gov’t Budgeting at Mercy of Coalition Talks

Government officials warned Tuesday that the longer it takes to form a new government, the less time lawmakers will have to debate the 2004 draft budget. The budget is supposed to be passed before 2004.

“I pray every day to the land spirit to help politicians to be good to each other and form a government,” said Ngy Tayi, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Finance. “Otherwise, debate will not happen and the 2004 budget will be stuck.”

The government is prioritizing education, rural development and health in the 2004 draft budget, Ngy Tayi said. The draft budget raises each ministry’s budget

3 percent or 4 percent, he said, except for the Ministry of Defense.

“We would not like to spend more money for defense, but we would rather focus on social dev­elopment,” Ngy Tayi said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Cheam Channy said the country will face problems if a new government is not formed soon, since the budget must be finished by December. He remains optimistic, however.

“I hope that a new government led by the CPP, but not [Prime Minister] Hun Sen, will happen sometime in October or Novem­ber,” Cheam Channy said.

All but two unidentified ministries have sent their budget proposals to the Ministry of Finance, Ngy Tayi said.

The Ministry of Tourism has proposed a 24 percent budget increase from last year, said Nhim Khemara, the ministry’s deputy director general of administration and finance.

The National Assembly ap­proved a budget of nearly $2.5 million for the Ministry of Tour­ism in 2003, but, Nhim Khemara said, that money has already been spent. The ministry is requesting more money—about $3.1 million—for 2004 because it currently does not have enough to fund events like the Asean Tour­ism Forum, media promotions and tourism conferences, he said.

The Cambodia Development Resource Institute reported last month that total budget expenditures rose 19 percent from January to May compared with the same period last year.

This will include funding for the Asean Boat Race scheduled for November during the Water Festival, he added.


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