Gov’t To Spend $2.2 Billion on Roads, Health and Schools

The government will invest $2.2 billion in 605 projects over the next three years, ranging from improving education to better governance, the Council of Ministers announced in a statement Friday.

The government will spend $695 million this year, $740 million in 2008 and $770 million in 2009, it said.

Of the total figure, $602.8 million will be spent on building infrastructure in the three-year period, $384.8 million will go to the health sector and $342.5 million will go to education, according to a Finance Ministry breakdown of the plan.

An additional $351 million will go toward developing sectors including tourism, arts and culture, environment and conservation, as well as good governance and administration.

A sum of $523.7 million will also go toward developing the country’s economy by investing in rice production, rural development, mining and trade, according to the Finance Ministry.

In 2006, the government invested $508 million in the public sector.

Minister of Planning Chhay Than said Monday that the mo­ney will come from the national budget and organizations such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank in grants and loans.

“If we can follow our plan it will help generate economic growth between 6 and 7 percent within five years,” he said.

Sam Sereyroath, director of planning for the Education Min­istry, said the money for education will be spent on building schools, buying equipment and training teachers and other staff.

Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state for the Health Ministry, said that his ministry would devote funds to building new hospitals and health centers as well as buying equipment and medicine. Money will also go toward education programs focusing on HIV, bird flu, malaria, diabetes, tuberculosis and tobacco, he said.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said the money should be spent developing irrigation systems, as 80 percent of Cambodians work in agriculture.

The more money that goes to developing the public sector, the better, he said, though he added that the long-awaited anti-corruption law is needed to ensure competent spending.

“If we have no mechanism to control the investments, I fear that the money would go to corrupt officials,” he warned.

Every year, the state loses $500 million to corrupt officials, he added.

Chea Vannath, former president of the Center for Social Dev­elopment, also said there needs to be clear accountability for the investment projects.

“It needs to be spelled out and transparent, who will be accountable for what,” she said, adding that projects need to be open for external audits.

Chea Peng Chheang, Finance Ministry secretary of state, said the money will be spent in a transparent manner and will bene­fit the nation.

ADB senior programs economist Purnima Rajapakse said he had not yet seen the plan, but added that it should include $182.5 million in loans and grants from the ADB.

All money given by the ADB to the government will be closely monitored, he said.



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