Conceding to the possibility of an extended delay before the government is ready to hold a Consultative Group meeting, ministry representatives met Monday to reassess how much money they will ask of international donors.
Monday’s meeting at the Council for the Development of Cambodia was to “redetermine what we are going to do over the next two months because the prime minister decided to postpone the CG meeting planned for June to the end of the year,” said Chhieng Yanara, deputy secretary-general of the CDC.
The meeting, at which international donors pledge assistance to Cambodia, was postponed due to the continued political deadlock, Chhieng Yanara said.
“The donors would like to understand the policy platform of the new government,” he added.
The last donor meeting was held in 2002. No meeting was held last year because of the elections, and donors said Monday that the next CG meeting would take place at least a few months after the new government forms.
Last month, Minister of Finance Keat Chhon announced that the government would seek $1.5 billion over three years, a request in line with the $500 million-per-year aid requests in 2001 and 2002.
Chhieng Yanara backed away from that number Monday, however, saying he could not predict the amount of aid the government will request or when the meeting will actually take place.
“There is a need for ministries to update their aid requests according to the policies, strategies and action plan that reflects the new government,” he said. But, he added, that doesn’t necessarily mean the ministries will ask for more money.
The question of when a government will actually form is the subject of much speculation in diplomatic and business circles. But what they are sure of is that the longer the deadlock lasts, the more aid projects are delayed, foreign investment is deterred and impoverished citizens who could benefit from foreign assistance suffer.
“Donors have repeatedly recommended that [politicians] form a government quickly,” Canadian Ambassador Stephanie Beck said Monday.
“We’re disappointed because this is not what Cambodians deserve.”
New aid projects from Canada and other donor countries, as well as international financial institutions, are being delayed because a working National Assembly has not been formed.
“When the National Assembly is functioning normally, all [official direct assistance] projects will go smoothly,” said Yutaka Aoki, first secretary at the Embassy of Japan, Cambodia’s largest donor.
“Some of the [official direct assistance] projects should start as soon as possible,” he added.
Though donors have consistently said that the speedy formation of the government would help the country, their advice seems to fall on deaf ears.
“The donor community is quite frustrated about the political deadlock, but it seems they don’t know what to do,” Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said Monday. “The CG meeting is the only thing they have.”
And whether donors will use the CG meeting to pressure the government into hastening reforms remains to be seen.
At the last two CG meetings, donors complained about the slow progress of reforms, but proceeded to pledge more aid than the government requested.