National Assembly’s Finance Committee Approves 2014 Budget

The National Assembly’s CPP-run finance committee approved the country’s $3.54 billion draft budget for 2014 Wednesday, its last hurdle before debate and a possible vote can be held by the full Assembly, where the opposition is still refusing to take nearly half the seats.

Still refraining to divulge any details about the hefty spending bill, finance committee chairman and CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the draft was approved after four hours of questions put to Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth.

“After the discussion and questions about this law we approved it and sent it to the [Assembly’s] plenary session,” he said.

Mr. Yeap said the plenary session would take place early next week, where it will be opened for debate and a possible vote.

“We can’t say how much money we will spend [on each ministry] now, so please wait until the plenary session takes place. We will distribute this law after that meeting,” he said.

An official inside the Assembly’s information office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the session had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Mr. Porn Moniroth and other officials at the Finance Ministry could not be reached for comment.

The government has been drafting the budget in complete secrecy and without any input from the opposition CNRP, which won 55 of the Assembly’s 123 seats in July’s national election but is boycotting parliament to protest what it says was a fraudulent vote.

“In good practice the government needs to release the draft budget in order to have a public consultation,” said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum. “The budget is the budget of the Cambodian people and they need to know what and where their money is going to be spent, if it is going to be in their interest.”

Past budgets have been criticized by the opposition and the country’s foreign donors for not allocating enough to the health and education sectors.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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