Public Doubtful Gov’t Will Make Reforms

A day after the country re­ceived more than $500 million in development aid from international donors, Phnom Penh residents, from fruit sellers to ty­coons, showed little interest in the proceedings and, in some cases, expressed skepticism that the money would be put to good use.

“I was not interested in following that news,” Ken Saran, a tuk-tuk driver, said Wednesday. “The money will never be properly used to reach the poor.”

Major donor nations and international institutions offered Cambodia messages of support and $504 million in grants and loans at the Consultative Group meeting Tuesday. But they also criticized the lack of progress on issues like corruption, judicial and public administration reform and called for substantive change.

Kong Lina, 26, a banana seller, was also concerned about graft, though she did not agree with the international community’s ap­proach

“Donors already know that the government is corrupt, why do they still give money?” she asked.

She said she did not bother to watch the televised proceedings because she was more concerned about selling her fruit. “I don’t have any interest,” she said. “With or without the donor mon­ey, the country is still like this.”

Others business people were more optimistic about the government’s ability to affect change.

Businessman Kong Triv, president of the KT Pacific Group, said  that he had not followed the  meet­ing, but that the promised aid is crucial to the country’s progress.

“The country needs the development; so $500 [million] to $600 million per year from donors can’t be avoided,” he said. “This mon­ey is really important for my company to build infrastructure.”

Commodities tycoon Mong Reththy, chief executive of a group of companies that bears his name, said he was pleased about the money for development

In return, Mong Reththy said, the government should heed calls for reform.

“I would ask the government to at least succeed in doing some of the reforms, not all of them, provided by donors,” he said.

But Reoung Phoumra, who works at a travel agency, had little hope for significant change.

“I don’t think they will accomplish the reforms,” he said, “because I have no idea where the government is taking the money to.”



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