Senate Approves Budget After Closed Session

The Senate yesterday approved the country’s almost $2.4 billion 2011 national budget in a closed session yesterday, lawmakers said.

CPP lawmaker and Senate Secretary-General Oum Sarith said the budget received unanimous approval from the 54 senators attending yesterday’s session.

“The Senate has approved this law by absolute majority vote,” he said.

Despite “hard debate” from some of the assembled senators, the budget passed the chamber without any amendments, Mr Sarith said. He said the King was expected to sign off on the budget in the coming weeks.

“The Senate will send it to the [National] Assembly and the Assembly will then send it to the King’s Cabinet. In one or two weeks the king should sign because it is an urgent law,” he said.

But SRP Senator Kong Korm criticized his colleagues for not conducting a thorough review of the budget.

“I asked the Senate to review the budget in terms of tax collection and payment. Senators approved it and nothing has been changed,” he said. “The Senate has never changed anything in any law so far as I know.”

Next year’s budget allocates approximately $501 million to the social affairs sector and about $297 million to defense and security. The economic sector has been allocated almost $115 million.

Reporters were barred from entering yesterday’s session, though security guards at the Senate building refused to say why members of the media were not allowed in.

Mr Korm said the session should have been open to the public.

“It is discrimination against reporters to stop them receiving information…. The session is in public,” he said.

Senate Secretary-General Mr Sarith said he was not aware reporters had been denied entry.

“The Senate does not have the policy to ban reporters from entering,” he said.

As the Senate does not currently have a designated media area, journalists rely on TV and radio broadcasters to share a live feed of events taking place within the chamber, Mr Sarith said. These broadcasters were too busy to attend the Senate session yesterday, he said.


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