The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved over $29 million in loans to help the government improve public service delivery, particularly in rural areas.
The move is set to be enacted through a series of reforms in public financial management and decentralisation.
ADB said in a statement yesterday that a $20 million ‘policy-based’ loan will support the strengthening of local government fiscal planning and management, as well as public administration.
It also includes a $9.35 million loan to help build the National School of Local Administration, said the statement, with the government also providing $1.7 million towards the initiative.
The project aims to help local governments across Cambodia provide sustainable, effective and efficient delivery of basic public services, while also bridging the urban-rural divide, said ADB Senior Public Management Specialist Jhelum Thomas in the statement.
“The project is important because COVID-19 and the subsequent pandemic have seen a significant number of people move from urban to rural areas,” said Thomas.
“This puts more pressure on local governments to provide social assistance and basic services,” added Thomas.
According to the statement, ADB’s programme will help strengthen agency coordination for responsive, accountable service delivery as well as strengthening strategic budget plans, auditing and ombudsman functions.
It will also improve revenue and expenditure management to meet local needs and address the longer-term skill shortages of local government staff, it added.
Sak Setha, a Ministry of Interior secretary of state in charge of overseeing sub-national public service delivery, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey told Khmer Times yesterday that the move is positive, and the government should carry out the project thoroughly to meet beneficiary demands.
“The government needs to make efforts towards social inclusion, especially with vulnerable groups who are cut off from public services. This will help vulnerable people, promote their well-being and economic opportunities,” he said.
ADB on September 11 approved a $127.8 million loan to expand the construction of transmission lines and substations, aiming to help provide Phnom Penh and the Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Cham, and Takeo provinces with a stable and reliable electricity supply.
The government has embarked on decentralisation reforms since 2001.
Transparency International Cambodia executive director Pech Pisey told Khmer Times yesterday that he encouraged the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Interior to maintain the commune budget to ensure there is at least $100,000 of investment per commune, which can be spent on critical services such as education and health, to benefit the most vulnerable.
“I strongly support the Ministry of interior’s initiative to establish and operate the National School of Local Administration, which will be financed under this loan, to enhance integrity, accountability and professionalism of public service providers in Cambodia,” he said.
ADB has supported Cambodia’s decentralisation reforms since 2002, including support for legal, policy and institutional reforms.
Between 2002 and 2012, ADB’s involvement focussed on strengthening commune councils and expanding services in rural areas.
Since 2012, ADB support has focussed on strengthening government work coordination, legal framework, institutions, and defining roles and responsibilities in the provision of public services.
This new project is in line with the priorities set out in the ADB’s country partnership strategy 2019-2023.