Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Cambodia - Budget for 2017 to Increase by $5 Bil
The government plans to increase the 2017 national budget by 15.7 percent, to more than $5 billion – representing an increase over this year’s government expenditure of more than $4.3 billion – a government source said yesterday.
According to the Khmer Times source, the 2017 budget will focus on three main sectors – education, health and social welfare and economic development.
While the spokesman for the Council of Ministers, Phay Siphan, was reluctant to reveal the rise in government expenditure for the 2017 national budget, he confirmed an increase in next year’s spending for those three areas.
However, he said the figures would be released after this week’s cabinet meeting.
“The 2017 budget plan will be discussed during the upcoming cabinet meeting [which will be chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen] on Friday,” he said.
“The increase in government expenditure in next year’s budget is possible due to the rise in revenue from our tax and customs and excise duties collection,” he told Khmer Times.
“Our three priority sectors in 2017 are education, health and social welfare and economic development,” added Mr. Siphan.
He pointed out that funds for government expenditure in the 2017 national budget would come from local revenue arising from direct and indirect taxes, grants from development partners as well as loans from multilateral financial institutions.
The government collected about $1.2 billion in taxes during the first nine months of the year, 20 percent more than the same period last year. In the same time period, the General Department of Customs and Excise collected $1.3 billion, up 16 percent compared with the previous nine months.
For the 2016 national budget, the government approved a 16 percent increase to make it $4.36 billion, from $3.75 billion in 2015. There was a 15.68 percent rise in social spending to $1.21 billion, from slightly more than $1 billion in 2015.
The biggest expenditure was on economic development, which saw a funding increase by 20 percent to about $1.3 billion, from about $1.07 billion in 2015.
Meanwhile, government expenditure in 2016 on defense, security and maintaining public order rose by 16.51 percent to about $711 million, from about $610 million in 2015.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International (Cambodia), agreed that the government prioritizes spending on education, health and social welfare and economic development in next year’s national budget.
“These three sectors are a must for the country and they benefit all Cambodians,” he said.
However, he also raised concerns about monitoring the use of funds allocated to the various ministries in the national budget.
“The national budget keeps increasing every year, while there is very little monitoring on how well the funds have been utilized in the various sectors,” said Mr. Kol.
“Some sectors, like health, for instance, have not made much progress. There are questions to be asked on where the funds have gone and the answers need to be forthcoming for the sake of transparency,” he added.
“Of course we do appreciate the increase in government spending in the priority sectors. But what’s most important, also, is a mechanism for monitoring the use of funds in a transparent manner – with the participation of all institutions, the public sector, and civil society.”
Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency (CRRT), a watchdog organization, said recently that information about Cambodia’s budget was difficult to access.
“In many countries, a citizen’s budget is published by governments to give a non-technical overview of what the budget contains. This process does not exist in Cambodia,” said the group in the website.
“The only other way that the public can check up on the Royal Government’s budgetary spending is to look at the National Audit Report. However, the reports currently take years to be published, meaning that the funding has long ago been spent. The most recent National Audit Report published was for the 2011 budget. Consequently, scrutiny is difficult,” said CRRT.
“At CRRT, we think there is a clear need for greater budget transparency in Cambodia.”