A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Mounting Foreign Concerns as 2013 Budget Plans Under Way [The oppositions found a way to reduce spending and foreign debts]

By Sok KhemaraVOA Khmer
WASHINGTON DC - Seven opposition lawmakers say they have found new ways to reduce the national debt and are requesting that the National Assembly’s finance committee meet with them before drafting the 2013 national budget.

The lawmakers, from the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties, say the proposed budget, of about $3.2 billion, can be decreased, especially the foreign debt that Cambodia continues to accrue.

The country still relies on foreign aid for up to $800 million a year, creating ongoing foreign debts and a “heavy burden” on Cambodians, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay (pictured) told VOA Khmer. “The government must inevitably raise taxes to pay back the debt.”

With proper taxation, Cambodia can earn about $1 billion a year, including from land concessions, casinos and ticket sales to the temples of Ankor Wat. That would allow the government to pay civil servants more and provide social security for the elderly, Son Chhay said.

The opposition sent their proposals to the finance committee in mid-November and are hoping for talks on it, he said. “If not, we need to wait until the opposition wins the election,” he said. “Then we’ll have the ability to pass the national budget by ourselves.”

Cheam Yiep, a parliamentarian for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and head of the finance committee, said the proposal was not accepted because it came “too late” for the 2013 budget.

The finance committee has already discussed the budget two times, including taxes, expenses, loans and other issues, he said. The government, which has been gradually paying off foreign debt since 2004, already has a development plan in place that can’t be put aside, he said.

Ou Chanrith, a parliamentarian for the Human Rights Party, said he hopes to testify before the committee to discuss effective revenue and income through tax collection, as a way to lower foreign debt. “Expenses and tax collection should be effective to avoid more debt,” he said.

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