Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests!
Dear All Participants!
Today, I am pleased to attend the Closing of the 2011 Stocktaking and 2012 Direction-Setting Conference of the Ministry of Rural Development, which is being organized for us to collectively review the achievement made in the past year, and to find key strategies and mechanisms to ensure that the implementations of each rural development project achieve fruitful results that would be in line with the new direction of 2012. Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I would like to express my admiration and high evaluation for the collective efforts of Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen who are in the management and are government officials of the Ministry of Rural Development in resolutely and tirelessly fulfilling their roles and duties in the cause of rehabilitating and developing the rural of Cambodia until accomplishing many remarkable achievements for our nation and people.
Truly, this conference provides a timely opportunity for reviewing and reflecting on the progress of the tasks implemented in the past, and so that we can learn from each other, discuss together, exchange experiences, identify strengths and weaknesses and lay down new measures and targets for the upcoming years. In this spirit, I would like to offer my support and encouragement for your efforts in successfully performing your duties and accomplishing many new achievements with the aim to fulfill the needs of the people and contribute to the acceleration of economic growth, social development and poverty reduction. Along with this, our conference today is taking place at a time when the Royal Government is increasing its attention and taking action with strong and calculated aspiration in the development on all sectors, including the acceleration in the work on rural development and poverty reduction, in particular after our people just overcame the flooding disaster in 2011.
In this spirit, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I would like to express my admiration for the management and government officials of the Ministry of Rural Development, and rural development offices in the capital and provinces, the Cambodian Red Cross, other relevant institutions, local authorities at all levels, development partners, non-governmental organizations, as well as for people from all walks of life for the good cooperation and utmost efforts in sharing the burden of the Royal Government in distributing emergency relief aid and other assistance to the affected families and communities in the Kingdom of Cambodia during the flood-responding phase in 2011. All these contributions have indeed supported the acceleration of the momentum in rehabilitating economic growth and enhancing daily living standard of our people.
As H.E Chea Sophara has raised in the report, within the past year we made many proud achievements in rural development including all types of socio-economic infrastructure development, human resource development, development policy preparation, necessary regulation and standard documents establishments along with the facilitating mechanisms preparation and all development action plan implementations under the framework of rural development across the country.
Truly, all these achievements are reflected in the growth in living standard of our people in rural areas that is improving steadily. Indeed, the development of rural infrastructure such as clean water supply and rural sanitation systems, education and training system, medical consultations and treatments, healthcare, village’s doctors, commune’s health centers, referral hospitals, moving schools, primary, secondary and tertiary educations, as well as vocational training centers closer to residential areas, are improvements in the human resources capability, community development, and rural economy; and the development programs along the Western and Northern borders of the Kingdom of Cambodia are all great contributions for improving and promoting in the welfare and living standard of the people.
In addition, rural development has greatly contributed to the prevention of rural-city and rural-urban migrations. In this spirit, I would like to recommend ministries, institutions, concerned local authorities, and all relevant agencies, in particular sub-national administrations, to continue paying great attention and tirelessly taking part in rural development in order to make rural areas in the country to use up potential benefits of the available opportunities and be able to exploit the advantages that are preferential for the development under the national, regional and global frameworks, as well as to vigorously speed up rural area development with the aim to double the living standard of the people so that we can accelerate the reduction in the gap between city and rural areas.
Indeed, Cambodia rural area has transformed gradually from quiet place to center of agricultural production, tourism, commerce, light manufacturing, with electricity, interconnected roads and bridges, schools from primary level and above, hospitals, health centers, irrigation system, clean water supply system, wells, ponds and reservoirs and so on. These reflect the fact that we have been helping to enhance gradually the livelihood of rural people. Moreover, we have not only turn rural areas into place of peace, safety, security and new development, but also into new potential development pole for speeding up our national economic development. In this sense, the government has always consider that rural development is one of key priorities like other sectors such as agriculture, education and health that we must keep giving special attention to.
At the same time, rural development is multi-sectoral tasks which require active participation and cooperation from all stakeholders. In this spirit, the government has been giving high and urgent attention to (1) the rehabilitation and restoration of rural infrastructure including rural roads, bridges, schools, health centers, rural health, (2) the provision of clean water network and rural sanitation to answer demand from all walks of life, especially people in rural area who have limited access to clean water, (3) the construction and building of irrigation system and sprinkling system for agricultural farming, particularly rice production to increase productivity of the farmer, (4) the promotion of service of consultation, care and treatment for people in rural community, raising awareness on change in behavior and mindset related of living and eating and preserving food and, (5) human resource development, making law, regulation, policies and measures aiming at promoting rural development of transparency, accountability and efficiency in conformity to the Royal government platform and the Rectangular Strategy.
Obviously, we are aware that Cambodia bear potential from natural resource and agriculture that are situated across Cambodia, and majority of the people living in rural areas. In this regard, we could clearly see that our primary capitals for rural development are these natural resource and agricultural skill that requires us to strengthen our capacity to efficiently manage and make the best use of that capital. Moreover, we must seek and bolster other production factors to complement the potential of existing natural resource and labor force; such as financial resource, leadership skill and entrepreneurship, because developing agriculture sector alone is not enough for rapid development. In this sense, we must keep implementing various activities and continue close cooperation with one another to make us of all economic resources such as natural resource, labor force, capital and entrepreneurship to fruitfully develop rural areas further. Nevertheless, I am of the view that among the 4 above-mentioned resources human resource is very fundamental for every kind of development. Therefore, human resource development at rural area is urgent and important task for rural development, and as result rural development will reinforce human resource development. I would say, in other words, human development is for rural development and rural development is for human.
Through rigorous discussion of this conference, I believe that we had assessed and laid out plans of action, measures and new direction to make further achievements related to rural rehabilitation and development in the coming years. In parallel, in addition to what we have been implementing and citing in the conference and with objective to promote this sector for Cambodian economic growth, I would like to provide a number of recommendations as follows:
First. The Ministry of Rural Development and relevant ministries-institution, all levels of authorities must make further effort to construct rural roads and seek any financial assistance to improve rural roads by using DBST. Because, so far our budget package for rural road maintenance is regular and cyclical, but the quality of rural roads remain poor which require huge maintenance costs. Regarding this point, I reaffirm that the state must ensure the construction of roads, bridges and physical infrastructure that support socio-economic development, that these tasks not only serve livelihood of the people, but also are the foundation for private sector expansion that in turns accelerate the growth of the whole economy. In this sense, I reckon that a number of rural areas possess high economic potential that need to be promoted and encouraged for private sector participation in development of physical infrastructure through Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) which is the mechanism for resource mobilization, promoting investment, raising productivity and accelerating development.
The Ministry of Rural Development and related ministries/institutions, local authorities should continue to attract and mobilize private sector to actively participate in this program with high ownership and responsibility.
Second, Ministry of Rural Development must continue to promote the supply of clean water and sanitation in accordance with the plan determined by the cooperation between relevant ministries- institutions, in line with the national policies on the rural water supply which states that “ Every person must have access to clean water service and sanitation, and lives in an environment with hygiene by 2025” and the Millennium Development Goals of Cambodia that has determined that by 2015 “50% of citizens living in rural areas will have access to clean water and 30% of citizens living in rural areas will have good sanitation”. In this regard, I recommend the Ministry of Rural Development to actively implement the counterpart program between state and its citizen to speed up the progress of this sector.
Third, The Ministry of Rural Development must pay higher attention to administrative reforms and capacity building, including strengthening leadership, managing the development capacity of lower level institutions, training government officials and people in rural areas by establishing training centers or rural development institutions at the national and sub-national level.
Fourth, The Ministry of Rural Development must rebuild cannel, repair village road, excavate pond, provide crop seed and animal’s breeding stock and fruit trees and grain crops and continue to cooperate with development partners and NGOs to provide rural credit to other provinces besides targeted provinces where implementations are underway. Within this, the Ministry of Rural Development should find ways to incorporate small production with big investment project, which can make certain programs being automatically linked with one another and to reduce burden on the state.
Fifth,The Ministry of Rural Development and inter-ministerial committee must make more concert effort to successfully develop western and northern border regions of Cambodia by collaborating with ministries-agencies concerned, private sector, civil societies and the donors in building physical infrastructure and clean water network and rural sanitary, electricity, developing the agriculture, tourism, health, education sectors and generating employment for the people. These practices can be good example of rural economic development for the rest of the region, by transforming a rural area into a town and a pole of production.
Sixth, the Ministry of Rural Development should formulate and successfully carry out rural development strategic plan, policy paper on rural roads, guideline on sanitary improvement for rural community, national strategy on rural clean water provision and sanitary, rule on the establishment and function of village development committee, as well as principle on water usage from the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers for rural development goal.
Seventh, The Ministry of Rural Development and relevant ministries/institutions should collaborate to promote public investment in rural development and agriculture, research and extension service by paying attention to more plating through upgrading skills and capacity of agricultural enterprises and agriculture-based enterprises; and raise efficiency of irrigation system that is managed and owned by farmers and expanding microfinance service. In this regard, all these works should have indicators and statistical data to monitor and evaluate progress and development of new programs.
Once again, I would like to appeal to all participants of the conference to actively and flexibly participate in the implementation of the mentioned plan and share your knowledge and experiences learned from this stocktaking conference to improve your performance to further realize new achievements in accordance with our rural development strategy. I also would like to recommend the Ministry of Rural Development and all related Ministries/Institutions to transform good recommendations, comments and experiences gained from this conference to be the practical action pan in order to ensure the success of rural development. In this spirit, I strongly believe that Cambodia is optimistically moving forward to more development and prosperity with broader base and is more favorable, through maintaining peace, political stability, harmonized society and sustainable development.
Last but not least, I would like to congratulate and highly value the concert efforts made by the Ministry of Rural Development, who have successfully organized this conference. I also would like to highly appreciate relevant Ministries/Institutions, inter-ministerial committee and municipal/provincial, district/khan and commune/sangkat authorities as well as all levels of competent authorities and our people, who have worked more closely with each other to address issues of rural development and poverty reduction. At the same time, I would like to request development partners, non-government organizations, civil societies, and private sectors to continue supporting and further contributing to the Royal Government and the people of Cambodia to achieve success with ownership in the process of national socio-economic development.
Finally, together with the Closing of the 2011 Stocktaking and 2012 Direction Setting Conference of the Ministry of Rural Development, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen the four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.