Ministers OK $792 Million Budget for 2005

The government is expected to spend an additional $40 million in 2005, as outlined in next year’s national budget, officials said.

Ministry of Finance Secretary of State Kong Vibol said the Council of Ministers on Friday set the 2005 budget at $792 million, up from $752 million last year.

The National Assembly’s Fi­nance and Banking Com­mission will work on the draft budget before presenting it for parliamentary approval by the first week in December, Kong Vibol said Sunday.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Finance and Banking Commis­sion, said this year’s focus will be on funding “priority ministries,” such as education, health, agriculture and social affairs.

In previous years, however, the national budget has rarely reflected actual expenditures, with “priority ministries” spending much less than budgeted.

The ministries of Finance and Interior Ministry both far outspent their allocated budgets in 2003, while social ministries like Health and Education spent only small fractions of their allotted sums.

While the 2005 budget represents a significant increase over last year, Cheam Yeap said the government will still be looking to donor countries for help.“The national budget is not enough for the country,” he said.

Officials in the Finance Min­istry said improved tax collection methods will help make up the boost in expected spending next year.

Opposition lawmaker Keo Remy blamed corruption in the Finance Ministry for the discrepancies that have plagued Cam­bodia’s budgetary process. “Cor­ruption has caused the Ministry to misspend the budget,” he said.

Due to the government’s political stalemate through much of the year, the 2004 budget was only approved on Oct 12.

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