Spending on Agriculture Low in Cambodia, Research Suggests

Cambodia spends less on agriculture than other countries where farming is also the main source of income, and other Asian countries spend at least twice as much on agriculture, a researcher said yesterday.

Funding for the Agriculture Ministry hovered around 2 percent of total expenditures over the past decade, Theng Vuthy, a researcher at the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, said during a meeting on food security and agricultural policy.

In India, Bangladesh and Vietnam, agriculture ministries in 2007 received about 5 percent, 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent of government budget respectively, according to Mr Vuthy. In Indonesia, levels of spending were closest to Cambodia, with about 3 percent of budget allocated to agriculture, his research showed.

“Government budget allocation for [agriculture] falls short of the needs and impact on government policy implementation” in Cambodia, he said, at the event organized by CDRI and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who did not attend the event, said yesterday that the government could afford to allocate a relatively small share of its budget to agriculture, as many donors supported agriculture projects in Cambodia.

“Now we focus on education and health as a priority,” he said.

Mr Yeap said more funds might soon be freed up for low-interest loans to the agriculture sector in order to support the new government rice policy goal of exporting a million tons of rice by 2015.

Last month the government announced the Agriculture Ministry would receive $23 million under the new $2.4-billion budget for 2011, a $3 million increase from last year. Another $20 million would go to the Rural Development Bank and supporting the rice milling industry.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, said yesterday agriculture spending was relatively low in Cambodia, as the government prioritized funding for social sectors, defense and security, and government administration.

“If we want to achieve broad-based development, agriculture and rural development should receive a lot more resources,” he said, raising the example of successful rural development in Malaysia, where the government spent a quarter of its budget on agriculture.

Peter Brimble, country economist at the Asian Development Bank, said it was difficult to compare countries’ agriculture ministries’ budgets, as governments organized their spending differently.

He added agriculture could also be supported through other ministries or by establishing a better business environment.

 

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