Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday called the national budget for 2000 a failure, citing it would neither improve public services nor stimulate economic activities.
And he warned that Cambodia’s economy is at risk of becoming known only by its vices.
“In Cambodia, only prostitution is thriving,” said Sam Rainsy, noting the country also is infamous for money laundering and cheap labor.
The forum, organized by seven senators from the Sam Rainsy Party, was to be held at the Senate building. But Senate Second Vice President Nhiek Bun Chhay (Fun) said the senators first needed permission from the Senate’s permanent committee. After Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians were blocked at the gate, the forum was moved to a hotel near Wat Phnom. About 30 diplomats and businessmen attended.
Sam Rainsy said the budget plan approved last week by the National Assembly does not address any of the fundamental principles needed to alleviate poverty, stimulate economic activity and redistribute revenue to the vulnerable.
“The government plan on the national budget for 2000 does not respond to people’s needs,” Sam Rainsy said simply.
“We don’t need a big military anymore because the war is over and we are safe now,” he added.
Budget figures show that while defense spending is being cut, the cut is offset by an increase in security spending.
The former finance minister also maintained that inflation is rising much faster than economic growth, and that unemployment is “increasing every month.” Those claims couldn’t be immediately confirmed.
Sam Rainsy warned that organized crime in the form of money laundering has moved from Hong Kong and Macau to Cambodia, and that the return of Macau to China will worsen matters.
“There are 50 banks in Cambodia, but when you see their branches they have no customers; they are just a screen to perform transfers and to prevent the tracing of money.”
Sam Rainsy proposed the government take 10 measures to improve the country’s economic situation. The measures include fighting corruption, expanding agricultural markets, promoting a rural credit system and increasing foreign investment in order to create jobs and reduce unemployment rates.
(Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse)