Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jun 2, 2010

Cambodia promise aid use

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA vowed on Wednesday to use international aid effectively and bring reforms after criticism that billions of dollars in donor money has done little to improve the impoverished country.

Opening a two-day meeting between the government, donors and development partners, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the country would continue public administration, land, judicial and financial reforms.

'The royal government has made its utmost efforts to firmly and deeply implement various reform programs and consider them as a life or death issue for Cambodia,' he said. Mr Hun Sen went on to say his government will ensure 'the effective, transparent and accountable utilisation of the development resources provided by development partners.'

But, speaking on behalf of donors, World Bank country director Annette Dixon complained 'progress has been limited' in government work to improve strategic planning and aid management. 'It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities,' she said.

The World Bank last week began to investigate allegations that mismanagement of its US$28.8 million (S$40.6 milion) land-titling project has left more than 20,000 people facing forced eviction from their homes in the capital Phnom Penh. The programme was created to implement a system of land ownership in Cambodia after the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime destroyed legal documents, but there has been criticism about evictions at the hands of the army and police.

Formal pledges of aid to Cambodia will be announced on Thursday and are expected to reel in over one billion dollars for this year. However, activists have complained of rampant cronyism and corruption. Cambodia received more than US$951 million in pledges last year, despite demands by rights groups that donors get tough on the government's apparent refusal to reform. 'The Cambodian government has been promising to reform for years but nothing had changed,' Global Witness campaigns director Gavin Hayman said in a statement. 'Donors simply cannot continue to turn a blind eye.' -- AFP

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