Some Communes Cut Out of Aid Program

Ministry of Interior officials met with NGOs on Tuesday to discuss providing support services for communes in five provinces and two municipalities with no development assistance.

Communes in 17 provinces receive aid under the Seila program, which provides an average of $8,500 per commune to be used for development.

However, communes in seven provinces and municipalities—Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kep, Kandal, Koh Kong, Stung Treng and Mondolkiri—receive no Seila benefits.

“We discussed how to organize and support the communes—all communes in the country should have equal support and get the common benefits,” said a decentralization expert with GTZ, the German technical cooperation agency.

If the seven provinces and municipalities do not receive some sort of assistance, there will be a “further widening…of in­equality among [commune councils], adversely affecting decentralization objective,” stated a Ministry of Interior.

According to one UN Develop­ment Program decentralization specialist, the UNDP tentatively agreed to give $90,000 to 338 communes in the seven prov­inces and municipalities.

The funds will not be used for the actual development of the communes, but the money will be used to create the commune’s development plan and outline its budget, said Shyam Bhurtel, a UNDP official.

The areas were not included in the Seila project because the program grew gradually, said another UN official who declined to be identified. The official said the UNDP funds are the first step in creating a Seila-like program in left-out communes.

Tuesday’s meeting, which was chaired by Ministry of Interior Secretary of State Prum Sokha, was followed on Wednesday with a meeting between the Ministry of Interior and Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara.

Chea Sophara said he met with Ministry of Interior Deputy Director-General Sak Setha, and they discussed the decentralization process as well as future commune planning. He said he was not aware of any problem with not receiving Seila funding.

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