$400M Needed to Strengthen Local Government, Interior Minister Says

Interior Minister Sar Kheng announced last week that the government needs an estimated $400 million over the next three years to fund government reforms that would hand over more resources and power to local authorities.

Mr Kheng said during a workshop last week that the government required these funds for the so-called Decentralization and Deconcentration reform process, according to the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development’s website.

He said international donors had so far “planned to support an estimated $124 million” to the reform program.

Ny Boret, an evaluation and monitoring officer at the NCDD, explained yesterday that the program, which started in 2003, intends to transfer powers and provide funding and training to local authorities.

He said the program also included rural infrastructure development, which made up most of the program costs.

Mr Boret said the reforms were necessary, as stronger local governance would lead to better support for local development.

“The central government wants to transfer power…because the local government knows more about the local situation,” he said, adding that in coming years the program would focus on training and funding district authorities.

Mr Boret said donors would have to provide most of the program funding, but he added there was “a very high chance” the requested funding would be approved.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, welcomed the planned support for local authorities, who remain underfunded.

Provincial, district and commune authorities received only 6 percent of total government expenditures in 2008, according to a recent report from the UN Capital Development Fund.

Mr Panha said, however, he had “doubts about the delivery of [decentralization] money to local authorities,” adding that the government should be held accountable for the expenditure of these funds, while the process should lead to increased access of citizens to authorities.

He said although implementation of the decentralization process had so far had been “very, very slow,” donors were likely to fund it because compared to other national reform programs, the decentralization process was “still moving.”

“This is the only way that donors hope they will be able to improve…delivery of services to the people,” he said.

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