NGO Highlights Three Top Government Reforms of 2016

Claiming the public knows little about successful reforms being made by government ministries, an international nonprofit released a study on Friday lauding the top three governmental efforts of this year.

Chy Terith, the program director of The Asia Foundation initiative, said the annual study began last year after research found low awareness of the positive steps that ministries were taking.

Seventeen ministries were consulted and social media was used to gauge public reactions to government initiatives, Mr. Terith said.

The top three ministry programs for the year, the study says, were efforts to raise teaching standards, increase tax revenues and improve the quality of city water supplies.

The new teaching standards set out in the educational action plan require instructors to have a bachelor’s degree, said Erika Boak, chief of education for Unicef Cambodia.

But for now there remains “a huge variation in teachers who are fully qualified,” she said.

Kep province has the highest proportion of fully qualified teachers, at 90 percent, while Mondolkiri has the lowest at 14 percent, Ms. Boak said, compared to the national average of 57 percent.

In the area of tax reform, Cambodia’s historically low tax take was boosted by 20 percent with the introduction of a more systematic regimen, in which businesses are no longer allowed to simply estimate their turnover, said Blaise Killian, advocacy manager for EuroCham Cambodia, who worked with the gov­ernment on the reforms.

“Now we can do better audits and help expand the formal economy,” he said.

However, Mr. Killian conceded, “a lot of taxpayers and businesses are [still] in the informal economic sector” where they are able to avoid taxes.

Finally, Itsu Adachi, the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s country chief representative, who helped advise the government on water initiatives, said 80 percent of urban residents now had access to safe water, up from 62 percent five years ago.

“Please try to drink water from the tap,” Mr. Adachi said. “I always do—no worries.”

Kounila Keo, a public policy analyst, agreed that these areas were deserving of recognition because they “affect the daily life of the ordinary Cambodian people.”

“I’ve observed some reform efforts of the current government since the 2013 elections, in which the government has put their thinking cap on these three areas, and they should, of course, be credited for these,” she said in an email yesterday.

There is, however, much room for improvement in other areas such as health, she said.

“Achieving good public service delivery can be challenging if good governance is not strengthened among public offices,” she said.

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