Japan Gives $3 Million For Elections

Election Workers Will Get Back Pay

Japan’s government has agreed to spend $3 million to finance February’s commune elections, a move that should provide some relief to thousands of election workers already owed a total of about $2 million in back pay.

The $3 million is the first major foreign donation for the elections and the largest single pledge from any donor.

It is earmarked for a computerized voter registration system and to pay for operations, equipment, communication and transportation during the polling process, a Japanese Em­bassy statement said.

But National Election Com­mittee Treasurer Chhay Kim said his office has been given permission to use the money to catch up on its payments to election workers.

Cambodia’s 22,000 temporary election workers have not been paid for work they did in June and July, and 215 permanent workers did not get special election pay owed them for the same period, Chhay Kim said.

All workers have been paid for the months of August and Sept­ember except those in Takeo, Pur­sat, Siem Riep, Stung Treng, Kompong Thom and Kompong Speu provinces, according to Chhay Kim.

Payments to those six provinces are now ready for distribution, he said. The Ministry of Finance has not yet indicated to election officials when further back pay will be distributed, Chhay Kim said.

The $3 million is left over from a $17 million allocation approved in 1999, a Japanese Embassy official said. The Japanese government agreed that the money, originally earmarked for economic development, could be used to fund the elections, the official said.

Japan also approved $213,243 in funding to three NGOs for voter education and training of new commune clerks.

Election officials have worried publicly that donor-pledged funds will not be released in time for the election to run smoothly. The government estimates the election will cost $18 million, $11.7 million of which it hopes to receive from foreign donors. The government has already contributed $5.8 million of the $6.3 million it expects to spend, Chhay Kim said.

Foreign donors have pledged $9.2 million, leaving the government $2.5 million short of what it believes it needs to elect officials in 1,621 communes. .

An official for the UN Development Program, which is coordinating foreign donations, said he was confident that the elections would be fully funded. He suggested donors would make additional pledges or that budget estimate might be revised downwards.

The official, who requested anonymity, said he expected the government to have about $5.5 million in hand by early November.

After Japan, the second-largest expected donor is the European Union, which has pledged $2.7 million. Other major expected donors include Sweden, Britain, the Netherlands and the UNDP, which is also providing five election experts.



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