Question Marks Over Funding for Proposed $3 Billion Budget in 2011

While Finance Ministry officials remained tight-lipped yesterday over a proposed 50 percent increase to next year’s national budget, speculation has been mounting among lawmakers and experts over where the extra money will come from.

Speaking at the National Assembly on Monday, Finance Minister Keat Chhon proposed a total budget of around $3 billion for 2011–up from almost $2 billion this year.

Several Finance Ministry officials contacted yesterday declined to comment on the budge increase or where the money will come from to pay for it.

Kong Chheng, a researcher at the Economic Institute of Cambodia, said he felt the money could be found through refining and maximizing current revenue streams.

“The government can definitely raise money by enhancing existing mechanisms of revenue collection from both taxation and non-taxation sources,” he said in an e-mail.

However, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said he did not believe existing systems would be able to provide the required $1 billion cash boost.

“From our studies, it appears the government will not be able to collect the [tax] revenue to fill the 2011 budget…. If they are struggling to get the money for 2010, how can they increase so much for next year?” Mr Chhay asked.

Mr Chhay said that the issue of corruption would have to be addressed if the government wanted to meet such a high budget target.

“The government has to seriously battle corruption and produce a system…without opportunities for embezzlement,” he said.

Speaking at the National Assembly on Monday, CPP lawmaker and chairman of the Assembly’s Finance and Banking Commission Cheam Yeap acknowledged that the government’s revenue generating sector required improvement.

“The state has to strengthen units that have authority within the Finance Ministry, including the department of taxation and customs,” he said.

Mr Chhay said yesterday his party was also concerned that the government might make up any budget shortfall with increased borrowing.

“Some countries like China are willing to lend. They have eyes on natural resources so they are happy to provide…but this is not so beneficial to Cambodia,” he said.


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