Social Sector Spending Up in 2002 Budget

Government spending on social services could rise while spending on the military could decrease, according to the 2002 draft national budget passed by the Council of Ministers Friday.

Council of Ministers spokes­man Penn Thol said the proposed budget will be sent to the Nation­al Assembly soon, in time for parliament to debate and vote on the draft before the end of the year.

The budget for military and security would decrease by 7.4 percent compared to the amount set aside for that purpose in the 2001 budget, Minister of Finance Keat Chhon said. He said the total government budget for 2002 is $678,481,012.

The Ministry of Education would receive a 28 percent boost under the budget, Keat Chhon said. That increase would follow a proposal made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in September to in­crease money for schools.

The Ministry of Health’s budget would increase by 20.9 percent under the budget, according to Keat Chhon. The budgets for the ministries of Rural Develop­ment, Agriculture and Justice would rise by 45 percent, 12.9 percent and 14 percent, respectively, the minister said.

Keat Chhon said the increased budgets for the five ministries would be funded in part by the decrease in military spending.

The 2001 budget also cut defense spending while funneling more money into health and education. It was the first budget since 1993 to do so.

International donors have pressured the Cambodian government in recent years to reduce spending on the bloated military and better address the country’s social ills.

Ministers and officials applauded Friday after the vote to pass the budget, Keat Chhon said. But he noted the budget “does not satisfy or dissatisfy all.” He would not identify which ministries were unhappy with their budget allocation.

Keat Chhon noted that the proposed budget contains the added expenses for military demobilization and the February commune elections. But international loans for demobilization are a “social expense, not for buying wea­pons.”

The minister expressed displeasure at foreign donors for providing late financial pledges for the commune elections.

“Foreign aid is hard to trust,” Keat Chhon said.


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