The government acknowledged Tuesday that it has failed to achieve economic targets set in 1996 for socio-economic growth, but it still projects a 6.1 percent annual growth in the economy for the next five years.
The Ministry of Planning on Tuesday presented a disappointing review of the country’s first five-year socio-economic development plan. Officials said a drop in international aid and foreign investment following the country’s 1997 political turmoil and the Asian financial crisis caused the country to fall short of its goals.
Poch Sovanndy, deputy director-general for the ministry’s planning department, said that ambitious economic and social targets were originally set in line with the government’s primary policy of poverty reduction. However, he said, the country only achieved an average of 4 percent growth in the gross domestic product per year, falling 3.5 percent short of the annual growth target.
Only 33 percent of 12 year olds, or half the original target, completed grade 6. Twenty-eight percent of the rural population and 70 percent of urban residents have access to safe water, figures also far below the targeted level. The ministry said more than one-third of the population still lived below the poverty line last year.
The government spent only $573.4 million on public investment projects between 1996 and 1999, just 26 percent of the estimated five-year expenditure.
“These [findings] indicate the need to improve the links in the policy, planning and budgeting process,” Poch Sovanndy said.
The evaluation of the first five-year plan was presented as an occasion to introduce a draft of the new five year plan to donors, government offices and NGOs.
“The second five year plan should become the most important instrument…to achieve the government’s ultimate goal of poverty reduction,” said Planning Minister Chhay Than.
The ministry projects an average 6.1 percent annual growth during the next five years, based on assumptions of reform progress, better governance, political stability and a favorable global economic environment.