Gov’t Seeking $524 Million From Donors

The government will ask international donors to pledge $524 mil­lion in aid to Cambodia this year, a figure higher than they re­quested for last year, but lower than what they actually received, of­ficials announced Tuesday.

Of the $548 million pledged last year, about $475 million was dispersed, Finance Minister Keat Chhon told donors and businessmen at a summary meeting ahead of June’s Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo.

The government went to Paris last year asking for $500 million. This year though, the government will request the $524 million to continue reform efforts as the coun­try struggles to develop and meet donor requirements.

Cambodia’s past has left its development inextricably tied to foreign aid, which last year ac­counted for more than 75 percent of the government’s $620 million budget, according to one economic observer.

The government has consistently asked for about $500 million in pledges from international donors at its yearly CG meetings.

Last year’s donations from international governments came with conditions to re­form much of the country’s framework. But while the government pledged Tues­day to con­tinue reform in ar­eas such as demobilization and the finance sector, Cambodian offi­cials indicated that sometimes goals have been set too high for the fragile government.

“International support, al­though generous and valuable for many of our partners, remains for some others linked too much with unrealistic conditions,” the government wrote in its executive summary. “No reasonable person can expect that all the necessary changes and positive actions can happen overnight, and at a pace which only Western nations should dictate.”

The government has been criticized in previous years for touting reform efforts that never oc­curred. Nevertheless, the country remains committed to improvement, Keat Chhon said.

“We have strong political will and commitment, as well as clear policies, strategies, programs and action plans to ad­dress these pressing challenges,” he said. But “our resources are limited. There­fore, we are in need for generous assistance” from donors.

The overall mood of Tuesday’s meeting, which included more than 100 representatives from do­nor coun­tries, the government and the private sector, was positive, said Urooj Malik, of the Asian De­ve­lopment Bank.

A number of donors highlighted the government’s achievement for overall reform, he said. But some donors also said the government would have to pay close attention to forest management and demobilization, two traditional pressure points for aid to Cambodia.

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