Gov’t Vows to Enact Reforms

More than 800 government officials wrapped up a four-day meeting on Wednesday with a pledge to enact reforms sought by donors, but it remains to be seen if the pledges will improve Cambodia’s chances of getting aid in a meeting later this month.

The platform, presented during meetings at Chaktomuk Theater, comes two weeks before Cambodia’s international donors are scheduled to meet in Tokyo. The Feb 25-26 Consul­ta­tive Group meeting is considered the best chance for the cash-strapped government to get aid.

But it will also be an opportunity for donors to bring up problems they want addressed before they hand over financial aid.

Illegal logging will be at the top of the CG’s agenda, as the government lost an estimated $60 million in revenues to uncontrolled cutting in 1997 alone, according to the World Bank.

The government conference agreed unanimously to implement a declaration to protect and manage Cambodia’s forests.

The platform also includes “measures to enhance standards of living of farmers.” Eighty-five  percent of the nation and 88 percent of the poor are in rural areas.

The conference also agreed to improve a crackdown on criminal activities and upgrade facilities to promote tourism.

One foreign donor this week said the slew of government proposals “all goes into the mix,” but the final cash amount won’t be known until the meeting.

The government is asking for $1.3 billion over three years.

“I don’t think ‘Cambodia fatigue’ has set in yet,” said Canadian Ambassador Gordon Longmuir. “I think the major donors still want to donate money to Cambodia.”

For Cambodia, the CG meeting may mean not only aid but also international recognition.

“In the past, the international community said I was a strongman,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the meeting’s closing ceremony. “If the government is successful on the economy and raising the standard of living, then we can call this a strong government.”

(Additional reporting by Deutsche Presse-Agentur)


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