Lawmakers Berate Low Funding for Roads

Lawmakers slammed the government this week for underspending on roads and bridges while overspending on ministries that they saw as less important to the social sector.

The government collected less revenue than expected in 2000,  but kept the budget balanced by underspending on public services while overspending on government functions and on the finance, interior and information ministries.

The government said it collected 1.536 trillion riel (about $390 million) of a projected 2.355 trillion riel (about $598 million), or 65.9 percent of expected revenue of 2000. The government said it spent about 64.9 percent of its projected budget.

Fifty-two percent of actual revenue came from customs, 16 percent from taxes and the rest from concessions, contracts and services and foreign aid.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation spent only 43 percent of its 2000 budget, the lowest proportion of any ministry.

“This ministry could not get all the projects done as planned,” said Funcinpec parliamentarian Khlok Buddhi. “All the allotted money should have gone to the repair of roads and bridges.”

Khlok Buddhi suggested that ministries be offered money directly rather than ministers having to make requests through the Finance Ministry. He suggested that ministers who pleased Fin­ance Minister Keat Chhon or Min­ister of Cabinet Sok An were more likely to get their full budget allotments.

Kim San, chairman of the assembly’s public works, transport and telecommunications committee, said the shortage of funds led a private road-building company in the Kompong Tram area of Kompong Speu province to charge passing motorists tolls. State funds should have gone to that project, he said.

Government officials say the Ministry of Finance owes the public works ministry about 35 billion riel ($8.75 million). That’s because the ministry has not yet collected enough gas and diesel taxes, said Uk Rabun, state secretary for the Finance Ministry.

The ministry will be able to pay the full amount once the taxes are collected, he said.

Workers on National Route 1 claim they have not been paid in two months and are threatening to strike. An official with the construction company said it was because of a conflict between the public works and finance ministries.

On another matter, Funcinpec lawmaker Keo Remy charged Minister of Posts and Telecom­munications Minister So Khun with incompetence and corruption. He said the ministry has not collected the amount of revenues required in the Finance Acts for the last three years.

“Normally, if a company does such bad business for two or three years, they will close or change the manager,” he said, adding that he wants the Ind­ustry, Commerce, Public Works and Telecommunications Com­mission of the assembly to invite So Khun to appear before the full assembly for questioning.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the government to impose new taxes on unused land in Kandal and Siem Reap provinces and in Phnom Penh and Sihanouk­ville municipalities and on previously un­taxed goods to increase state revenues. He said taxes should be imposed on cigarettes or alcohol bottles with labels.

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