NA Passes $687.1 Million Budget for 2002

The National Assembly Friday passed the national budget draft law for 2002, with more money moving to the social sector and less to defense and security.

By a margin of 85 to 9, the National Assembly passed the $687.1 million draft, with a large increase of expected allocated funds to education and health, a decrease to defense spending.

Although comparisons of the expected allocated funds from education and health from 2002 to 2001 show an increase, those figures do not always reflect the amount of money that is actually doled out to the ministries from the Ministry of Finance.

During debate Friday afternoon, Funcipec lawmaker Keo Remy pointed out that very little of the budgeted money for the social sector ministries finds its way to their operations.

He called on the National Assembly and Minister of Fi­nance Keat Chhon to consider giving all of the money directly to the relevant ministries, something the Ministry of Finance has not considered in the past, and is not likely to do now.

The draft budget for 2002 calls for an increase to education of more than $16 million, totaling $73.38 million. At the same time, the draft cut spending for defense from $71.14 million in 2001 to $65.38 million next year—a cut of more than $5 million.

The draft law, which now must pass the Senate and the Con­stitutional Council before the beginning of the year, budgets about $404 million for the day-to-day operating costs of the government, an increase of more than $25 million from 2001, according to copies of the draft.

The total budget for next year shows a nearly 5.45 percent increase from last year.

Funding for the budget comes from tax items, other revenue earners and cash donations from donors. In general, the government has been increasingly improving its tax collection, according to a copy of the third-quarter budget review for 2001.

Value added and import taxes have seen a steady rate of in­crease, earning more revenue for the government as it cleans up its customs system and continues to tax goods.

Much of the draft budget went without debate.

However, allocation of funds for the National Election Committee came under fire from some lawmakers. The cost for the national elections, and thereby the overseeing committee, are unknown.

Nor is it know how much money donors will be giving.

There is no exact line item for the allocation of funds to the NEC.

“It is a shame to propose a budget project, but have no figure,” said Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Sam Sundoeun. “How can we raise our hands [to vote]? It is a failure.”

No figures are yet available, said Minister of Finance Keat Chhon. “It is still blurry.”


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