World Bank Questions Gov’t Reform Efforts

Hours after the government announced it would seek $1.5 billion over three years from donors at the next Consultative Group meet­ing, expected to occur soon after a new government forms, the World Bank’s country director questioned the government’s commitment to reducing poverty.

Nisha Agrawal, head of the World Bank’s Phnom Penh office, criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech last week at the launch of a UN report that re­vealed Cambodia was unlikely to achieve many pov­erty reduction targets, calling it “disappointing.”

“Cambodia is basically saying ‘We’re not going to…halve the number of poor people,’” Agrawal told a public forum late Thursday. “The question is why not? It’s very clear what needs to be done.”

Four years ago, Cambodia committed itself to a number of goals by 2015, including halving poverty. The gov­ernment also promised donors at the last two CG meetings, at which donors pledge aid, that it would implement an anti-corruption law, reform the judiciary and increase funding for health and education.

A CG meeting was not held last year because of the prolonged gov­ernment deadlock.

In his speech last week, Hun Sen said frankly: “We cannot achieve the poverty reduction goal,” adding that it will “only be achieved if we all make sacrifices.”

Donors are also to blame for the country’s lack of progress, Chea Van­nath, Center for Social Devel­op­ment president, said Fri­day.

Lack of donor coordination, especially among the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, has hurt implementation of recent ref­orms, she said. Since most of the benchmarks the government committed to at the last two CG meetings have not been met, donors should get tougher at the next meeting.

“For the last two meetings, the government has been bragging that they did a good job because don­ors give a lot more than re­quested,” Chea Vannath said. “For the next step, donors need to match their frustrations with their level of commitments.”


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