– Your Excellency Chairman of the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum;
– Your Excellencies Representatives of Development Partner countries and agencies;
– Your Excellencies Members of the Royal Government of Cambodia;
– Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
1. Today, I am very honored and delighted to participate once again in the meeting with the representatives from the international communities and development partners. I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and profound thanks for your participation in the first Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum(CDCF).
2. At the same time, I would like to highly appreciate the Council for Development of Cambodia for cooperating closely with the World Bank and other relevant partners in coordinating the process of the “Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum’in the past and making the arrangements for today meeting. Taking this opportunity, I would like to also thank all bilateral and multilateral cooperation partners for their active engagements and generous supports for the Royal Government’s efforts, aimed ~educing poverty of the people and promoting Cambodia’s development.
3. First of all, allow me to clarify how the Consultative Meeting was transformed into the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, which is going on right now, and its significance for all of us. In short, the gradual evolution from one stage to another, starting from the Ministerial Conference on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia in June 1992, then ICORC 1993, to the Consultative Group Meeting and to the current Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum is the process reflecting the gradual and steadfast strengthening of Cambodia’s capacity, responsibility and ownership of its own development. This also reflects the positive paradigm shift by the external cooperation communities vis-a-vis the aid recipient countries in general, and vis-a-vis Cambodia, in particular. In this spirit, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely commend Senior Minister Keat Chhon and his colleagues in the Cambodian Rehabilitation and Development Board (CRDB) and Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) for their utmost efforts and determination in preparing this important forum.
4. As in the previous meetings, we participate in the meeting not only just to do the stocktaking of our past progress and to review our reform activities, but we will also carry out consultation on key aspects of our strategy paradigms to accelerate Cambodia’s development in the future. In this sense, I will briefly emphasize in this morning’s statement important achievements that we have made and key challenges that we have recently encountered. Furthermore, I will also present a number of key policy issues in response to your concerns, and in doing so I hope to get more support from all our bilateral and multilateral cooperation partners.
5. During the past decade, Cambodia has gone through substantial transformation. The “win-win” policy, which we have implemented with neither guidance nor persuasion from outsiders, has brought about to Cambodia and the Cambodian people full and genuine peace, national reconciliation and territorial unification at the end of 1998. During the last eight years, Cambodia and its people have enjoyed the benefits of peace, political stability and rapid economic growth. Indeed, the hard gained peace, political stability, safety, social order and enhanced security are the most important pre-conditions to Cambodia’s realization of its real economic and social potentials.
6. Based on this peace and stability, which have become more and more entrenched day by day, the Royal Government have undertaken with strong determination the reforms in various sectors within the framework of the ”Rectangular Strategy” for Growth, Employment, Equity, and Efficiency and the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP). These efforts have taken deep root in the socio-economic foundation of Cambodia and provided impetus for rapid economic development.
7. For instance, after achieving full peace in 1999, despite major challenges faced by the regional and global economy and the unfavorable natural disasters in the country, the Cambodian economy has become more and more resilient and dynamic by achieving the average growth of approximately 9.4% per annum during 2000-2006. In particular, during the last three years, the economic growth reached unprecedented rates on average of 11.4% per annum. More importantly, the economic growth rate has peaked a record high of 13.5% in 2005 and 10.8% in 2006. The average per capita income almost doubled from US$288 in 2000 to US$513 in 2006. Inflation has been kept low at an average of under 3% between 2000-2006. The exchange rate has been broadly stable. During the same period, the country’s international reserves doubled from about US$500 million in 2000 to more than US$ l billion in 2006. Economic growth is projected to reach 9% in 2007. Inflation will continue to be maintained under a 5-percent mark and the exchange rate will be remained broadly stable. The international reserves are expected to continue expanding to ensure three months of imports.
8. Indeed, the Royal Government recognizes that these achievements cannot be made possible without the generous contribution from all Cambodia’s cooperation partners. It also reflects the gradual improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of utilization of all kinds of cooperation financing that Cambodia has received from its external cooperation partners. On this rare and auspicious occasion, on behalf of the Royal Government and the people of Cambodia, I would like to express our heart-felt gratitude to all development partners for their invaluable and noble contribution to the poverty reduction and development in Cambodia.
9. Our proud achievements clearly demonstrated that Cambodia has put behind itself the culture of confrontation and war and has reached a point of no return. We are contemplating the bright future with vigor by consolidating the culture of peace and national reconciliation; promoting liberal democracy and the respect for human rights and human dignity; maintaining security, stability, safety, and social order; strengthening good governance to enhance the public sector’s efficiency and social equity; and promoting development cooperation.
10. As I have mentioned earlier, enjoying the rare opportunity of full peace, national unification and genuine territorial unity, being governed by the unique constitution, His Majesty the King, and the Royal Government, Cambodia and the Cambodian people have actively implemented strategies, policies, reform programs and development plans in all sectors and have achieved fruitful and encouraging outcomes. In a very short moment, His Excellency Chhay Thon, Senior Minister, Minister of Planning will make a presentation for the forum on the progress that we have made in the implementation of our National Strategic Development Plan during last year. I am aware that, during more than one year or so, all our development partners have worked very closely with their government counterparts in the framework of Technical Working Group (TWGs) and the Government-Development Partners Coordination Committee (GDCC).
11. Therefore, there is no need for me to go into full details on the past achievements. However, I understand that not all the technical working groups are always smoothly operational. Moreover, if we compare our achievements with the agreed targets, the outcomes are not always impeccable. Therefore, I think I should take this opportunity to highlight some key points that are the common concerns for all of us, both for the Royal Government and all of the development partners.
12. I would like to start from the core of the Rectangular Strategy, which is the good governance. Our priority in the good governance is to put efforts into promoting the capacity and efficiency of the public sector, including the fight against corruption, on many different platforms such as enhancing the implementation of the Legal and Judicial Reform, improving the Public Financial Management Reform, Public Administration Reform including de-centralization and deconcentration.
13. Based on some of the key achievements made recently, particularly, those regarding the preparation and adoption of some key laws such as the Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code as well as many other outcomes in the efforts to strengthen the court and human resource development show the remarkable progress made by the Royal Government in its effort to accelerate the legal and judicial reform. Indeed, we understand that we still have a long list of agenda in this reform area, as witnessed by the tightening of Cambodia’s limited capacity to the point which is barely tenable. However, the Royal Government is strongly committed to accelerating the implementation of these key and difficult reforms in order to improve the Judicial System in Cambodia.
14. At the same time, I am aware that many of our development partners are still worried about the uncertainty regarding the preparation of the draft Anti-corruption Law. In this regard, allow me to once again stress that the Royal Government is committed, without any hesitation to fighting corruption by undertaking many concrete actions to meet this objective including the drafting of the Anti-corruption Law itself. However, no matter how hurry we are, we should place this work in the context of common needs and reality of Cambodia. After having gone through the period of destructive war which resulted from the influence of external forces, the atrocities of the genocide regime, then the economic and political sanctions and internal conflicts, Cambodia actually has a lot of needs and priorities at the same time. Especially, in the efforts to rebuild its legal system and judicial institutions, the Royal Government wants to have a consistent and effective legal framework which is responsive to the needs of the country and its people in promoting sustainable development at present and in future. We have taken this principle into account while drafting the Anti-Corruption Law. Therefore, it is important to ensure consistency between the Anti-Corruption Law and other relevant laws, such as the Criminal Procedure Code and Criminal Code. While we are drafting these laws and codes at the same time, we realize that it is a great opportunity for us to use some time in order to prepare those draft laws in a proper sequencing which will provide us with the smooth, consistent and effective implementation of the laws.
15. I would like to emphasize once again that it does not mean that the RGC has deliberate intention to avoid or escape from the responsibility to fight corruption. However, we are aware that the Anti-Corruption Law is not a panacea to root out corruption in the society, particularly in the circumstances where it is forced to be implemented without consistency with other important laws in the country. As a result, law enforcement will not be comprehensive and will be constantly contradictory.
16. Nevertheless, the Royal Government is aware that corruption is a dangerous cancer which requires our efforts to tackle all the times and circumstances without compromise. In this spirit, though we have not adopted the Anti-Corruption Law, we have, in the past, given special attention to fighting against corruption by taking and implementing some measures within the existing legal framework and have achieved some concrete outcomes, namely the establishment and the strengthening of the Anti-Corruption Unit, imposing administrative sanctions and bringing a number of officials to the court. For instance, seven government officials who have violated the Forestry Law, were administratively punished, 2 officials were convicted and jailed in the case of private assets infringement, an official was found guilty of receiving bribes and colluding in the grabbing state land and forest and falsifying documents, an official was found guilty of destroying natural resources and environment and other eleven officials were found guilty of illegal logging in Ratanakiri province.
17. We fully agree with our development partners that the Anti-Corruption Law is a sine qua non component for effectively combating corruption. On this basis, while there is a need to ensure consistency among the inter-related laws as aforementioned, the Royal Government is strongly committed to finalizing this draft law as soon as possible. In this spirit, the RGC continues to cooperate and closely consult with relevant development partners in order to search for an efficient means aiming at coordinating different positions and pushing this process as quick as possible according to the needs of Cambodia.
18. The RGC has recognized the needs to create a civil service that is qualified and capable of providing efficient public services. In this sense, civil service reform remains on the top of our priorities. To deepen this reform in the medium term, the Council for Administrative Reform (CAR) has drafted six policy statements, as well as action plans to implement these policies. This represents a cohesive and inter-twinned strategy which focuses on long-term comprehensive reform. The RGC is clearly aware that one of the most important aspects of this civil service reform is to improve the incentives for civil servants to enhance the quality, efficiency and integrity of the whole civil service.
19. Indeed, the RGC and development partners have recently cooperated to pioneer an innovative approach by piloting the Merit Based Payment Initiative (MBPI) at the Ministry of Economy and Finance. This initiative is a program to provide incentives in the form of high salary to officials in accordance to their merit, qualifications and skills, but there is also a requirement to put in place an operational system with rigorous management.
20. I am aware that the success of the first phase implementation of this initiative at the Ministry of Economy and Finance has attracted other ministries such as the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Commerce etc. requesting to implement the MBPI at their own ministries. Thus, I would like to encourage CAR to improve cooperation with the development partners and relevant ministries/institutions to expand coverage of the MBPI to make it more comprehensive in response to the needs of the RGC. Indeed, I am aware that MBPI has some additional special features comparing to the concept of Priority Mission Group (PMG) that the Royal Government is implementing at the same time in a number of ministries and agencies of the RGC. Therefore, to ensure the clarity of concept and policy as well as effectiveness and continuity in implementation, I would to request relevant ministries/institutions of the RGC and our development partners to organize a national workshop as soon as possible to discuss and to find consensus on a political and conceptual framework, as well as evaluate the progress and the needs to take some accommodations aimed at speeding up and accelerating this important reform agenda.
21. Due to the importance of the Royal Government’s Governance Reform, especially in the areas of the anti-corruption and civil service reform, I have requested H.E. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who is directly in charge of this work, to participate in the discussion of this forum in order to clarify and respond to all concerns and worries from the development partners.
22. The successful implementation of the Public Financial Management Reform Program which I launched on 5th December 2004, has produced a noteworthy, positive results and many new achievements, notably the budget is increasingly credible; the continued increase in revenue collection; the more effective, transparent, predictable budget management and expenditure; spending that is more and more consistent with government policies; and improved cash management which resulted in the reduction in the arrears at the National Treasury.
23. The concrete result of this reform is that the domestic revenue increased by 26 percent in 2006, due to the 38 – percent increase in the revenue collected by the Tax Department, the 11 – percent increase in the revenue collected by the Custom and Excises Department and the 9 – percent increase in the revenue collected by the Non-tax Department of the MEF.
24. Indeed, the increase in the domestic revenue allowed us to increase investments in important physical infrastructures, such as roads, irrigation facilities, social development, and human resource development. These are important factors, which create favorable conditions to enhance and to sustain growth, as well as distribute the fruits of growth to all strata of the population in the country.
25. The Royal Government is committed to further implementing the Public Financial Management (PFM) Reform Program, which is about to complete Platform One, namely making budget credible and in the process of moving to Platform Two, i.e. increase the efficiency and accountability in the PFM reform program. In 2007, the Royal Government continues to implement a number of priorities, including the rigorous implementation of the New Chart of Accounts and the New Budget Nomenclature, the piloting of the Program Budgeting in seven priority ministries, the strengthening of the cash management mechanism, the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the improvement in budget preparation to make it more comprehensive.
26. At the same time, after rigorous implementation of the Financial Sector Development Strategy, which has been updated recently, Cambodia’s financial system begins to play more important role by deepening and expanding the base of economic growth. For instance, the banking system has contributed US$ 500 million in 2006 to finance economic development. It is for the first time that the financial contribution from the Bank System has reached the same level of financing provided by the development partners to Cambodia.
27. These tremendous achievements provide strong impetus to the Royal Government to continue successful implementation of the Financial Sector Development Strategy 2006 – 2015, which was launched on 7th June 2007. In this area, the medium-term priority will mainly include measures to strengthen banking system supervision, improving and expanding the coverage of micro-finance for the poor and micro credit for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as promoting the development of non-bank financial institutions such as insurance, capital markets and leasing etc.
28. The private sector development is another priority reform area, which is moving forward alongside with the Public Financial Management (PFM) Reform and the Financial Sector Development Strategy (FSDS). Although we should make furtherefforts to overcome various difficulties, the Royal Government has achieved, in general, some remarkable progress in the private sector development reform, in particular by improving institutional mechanisms, and legal and regulatory framework. The Royal Government has further strengthened the mechanism of a single administrative document (SAD) for investments and achieved considerable success in trade and investment facilitation, including reducing the time required for investment approval, setting a transparent tariff for public service provision, reducing the required number of certificates of manufacturing (CM) and inspections, removal of some licensing requirements, streamlining the inter-ministerial procedures for goods inspections, the introduction of a risk management system and customs automation, the reduction of informal fees for processing paperwork, and the preparation and enforcement of a legal framework and institutional mechanisms for the development and management of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
29. Over the medium term, in order to further strengthen the achievements outlined earlier, the Royal Government will continue to pay special attention to ensure smooth implementation of the Customs Automation Program based on the ASYCUDA Program, the implementation of a Single Administrative Document, the establishment of One Stop Services in the Special Economic Zones, improved transparency of business procedures and efficient and transparent tax regime.
30. There is no doubt that blessed by full peace and stability, the key achievements and progress in implementing the above reform programs have taken deep roots in the socio-economic foundation of Cambodia. This has led to rapid economic development, in general, and impressive poverty reduction in particular. Indeed, the future prospects of oil and gas production and mining have opened up a new horizon of economic opportunities to transform Cambodia into a new development center in the region. It provides the opportunity for Cambodia to sustain robust economic growth over the medium to long term, as well as to promote greater economic diversification and rapid poverty reduction.
31. With regard to the prospect of receiving additional oil revenues, I have noticed that our partners are a bit over concerned regarding the utilization of these proceeds, despite the fact that the oil or gas we are talking about are still under the seabed, and we do not really know the exact quantity of oil and gas. As I have mentioned on many occasion, as the fish is still in the water, and we have not caught them yet, perhaps it is not yet the time to decide which fish will be fried and which fish will be boiled. On the other hand, many of our partners and some other external stakeholders have continuously expressed their concerns that the government has not prepared itself to ensure transparent and accountable management of oil revenue for Cambodia’s development. The repeated statements on this topic made at the time when there is no oil revenue and the apparent disregard for the tremendous efforts made by the Royal Government in rigorous implementation of the decisive reform programs during the past years these reforms have already yielded impressive results, namely robust economic take-off and rapid and impressive poverty reduction – as well as the publicly announced commitment and the steadfast implementation by the Royal Government of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Reform program – this includes transparent and accountable management of oil and gas revenue – appear to prematurely cast doubt on the government’s integrity and capacity in the management and leadership of the country.
32. Nonetheless, I would like to take this opportunity to inform all partners and reiterate that the Royal Government has a firm commitment to ensuring that any oil and gas revenue, whether it is big or small, will be effectively, transparently and accountably managed within the framework of the single budget and public financial management system, which has continuously been improved and upgraded to international standards and best practices in order to underpin the country development’s objectives and needs, as specified in our “National Strategic Development Plan (NSPD)”.
33. Moreover, I am of the view that at this stage, Cambodia must negotiate and develop a comprehensive framework to maximize the benefits of oil and gas development and mineral exploitation in order to generate more revenue, rather than spend more time to speculate on how to use oil and gas revenue, which has not yet been collected. For that reason, the Royal Government would urge all relevant development partners to help Cambodia to effectively generate maximum oil and gas revenue, whilst starting to consult each other on future management and utilization of expected oil revenues.
34. We are aware that a very narrow base of the economic growth in Cambodia, driven mainly by some urban sectors is the main cause of increasing inequality between urban and rural areas. An economy overtly reliant on garments and tourism – sectors that are facing tough competition and vulnerable to shocks – is considered as high risk. This can make Cambodian workers vulnerable to losing their employment, which can then lead to social unrest and unpredictable consequences. Therefore, our Rectangular Strategy identified the promotion of agriculture and rural sectors a top priority, as they provide the livelihoods for more than 80% of Cambodian people.
35. We are well aware that agriculture and rural sectors are facing enormous structural challenges and obstacles, including the vulnerability caused by weather, the shortages of effective and low-cost physical infrastructure network, the shortages of the irrigation and power supply facilities, price fluctuation and business cycle of the agricultural markets, land management issues, the supply of raw materials, agricultural mechanization and technology transfer for crop production, harvests and storage, as well as market access, supply capacity and credit, etc. I would like to highlight a number of main priorities among these important factors:
36. First of all, we have to recognize that water is the most important factor for the livelihoods of our people and the rural economy. Even with good seeds, fertilizers, good agricultural management, advanced technology, equipment and fertile soils, but without good and effective water management, the rural economy cannot develop. By contrast, a good and effective water management can significantly reduce agricultural risks and encourage Cambodian farmers to put more efforts and invest more on seeds, equipment, fertilizer and technical management in order to increase productivity. In this regard, the agriculture and water strategy represents an important step forward in the efforts to improve the rural economy and livelihoods. Hence, as a way forward, the effective implementation of the strategy is the top priority and the Royal Government appeals to all partners to pay attention and to provide timely and effective support.
37. Indeed, during last few years, the Royal Government has allocated considerable part of its limited resources to the investment in water resources and irrigation system. However, our demand is still enormous in the area of agriculture and water resources development. There are also tremendous needs to improve and develop social and economic infrastructure including, roads, bridges, power supply and transmission lines, clean water supply in rural areas, schools, and health centers, etc. Therefore, over the medium term, the government will be required to make considerable investments in infrastructure. It remains a top priority of the RGC. In this regard, we warmly welcome our development partners’ generous contribution to support these development efforts.
38. The Royal Government is conscious that natural resources especially land is the most important asset, which can be effectively used for social and economic development and poverty reduction, especially in the rural areas. In this vein, the Royal Government has taken serious strides to develop legal framework and strengthen institutional capacity, aimed at ensuring an effective, transparent and participatory natural resource management in order to ensure sustainable use, especially for the grassroots communities.
39. While enforcing its Land Law and land policy, the Royal Government concentrates mainly on measures to strengthen the management, distribution, and equitable use of land, to ensure the economic effectiveness. This includes land registration, land distribution and security of land ownership, elimination of illegal land holding and implementation of concrete measures to prevent land holding for unproductive purposes. The Royal Government has reviewed the unused state land or state land held by private individuals in violation of the existing legal framework and procedures in order to ensure the effective land use.
40. Indeed, the Royal Government is very concerned about the report of increasing land concentration and landlessness. To address this complicated issue, the Royal Government will take step to distribute land and provide land titling to the population, especially the genuinely landless poor living in remote areas. As part of our provincial-municipal development programs, we have taken back thousands of hectares of land from sparsely forested areas, unused state land and land illegally encroached by individuals to be redistributed to thousands of genuinely landless families and provided them with land titles. This comes together with public investments aiming at creating an appropriate living condition for those people who have been relocated to the new location. The Royal Government will continue to actively implement this policy to address landlessness and the shortages of land by distributing land to the people who are in real need. I used the word thereal landless people very often to stress the importance of avoiding negative situations created by some politicians who had appealed the people to illegally occupy the state or privately owned land for their own political gains. They were guided by a saying that if successful they get land, if failed they get money.
41. Moreover, we have tightened the evaluation criteria for grating economic land concessions to ensure transparency and economic efficiency in compliance with the existing policies and regulations. The Royal Government has recently cancelled concession contracts and taken back the economic land concessions from 5 companies failing to implement the contracts signed with the government and existing laws and regulations.
42. Indeed, Senior Minister 1m Chun Lim and Minister Chan Sarun will provide our development partners with more details on the policies and practices of the Royal Government in the area of natural resources and land management reforms. However, taking this very valuable opportunity, I would like to give further instructions to the two ministers to conduct a joint review with the cooperation with relevant local authorities to allocate some appropriate areas from the recently revoked five economic land concessions and use them for social land concessions and to be quickly distributed to people who are genuinely landless. I would like to warmly welcome those development partners who are interested in supporting the implementation of this measure, especially, the World Bank who has been studying the implementation of this program a long time ago.
43. The Royal Government of Cambodia has highly valued the development partners’ efforts in supporting the government’s progress toward realizing its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which cover a broad range of socio-economic indicators. Our long-term vision is to build a socially connected, well educated and culturally developed Cambodia, free from poverty, illiteracy, diseases, and living together in harmony, without discrimination based on gender, religion, nationality and social strata.
44. To this end, we have prepared and strictly implemented a package of socio-economic policies, aimed at improving the living standards of the people, by ensuring peace and livelihood safety, addressing gender inequality and developing the capacity and quality of human resources. The latter can be achieved through the improvement in the education system and upgrading public health and sanitation. The Royal Government has worked very closely with all development partners, i.e. both the Royal Government and development partners have made considerable investments in human resource development.
45. Indeed, as a result, we have achieved many remarkable outcomes in some important sectors such as education and public health, including the reduction in HIV/AIDS prevalent rates. However, we also recognized that there are still many shortcomings and challenges that we must overcome to realize our agreed visions and objectives. I hope that this two-day meeting will provide us with enough time to brainstorm on various outcomes, shortcomings and challenges that we are facing in this important human development sector. My colleagues in the Royal Government who have direct responsibility for this work will make detailed explanation to all of our development partners on what we have achieved together so far, the strategies and plans to address the challenges we are facing and the requirements to ensure successful implementation of all strategies and plans.
46. Since the last Consultative Group meeting which was held in December 2004, we have noticed remarkable progress, both inside Cambodia and on the international arena, with regard to ensuring aid effectiveness. Internationally, a new standard was established for both the developing and developed countries, including long-term monitorable actions, aimed at reforming the way in which aid is delivered and managed.
47. Domestically, the Royal Government has worked very closely with development partners and achieved remarkable progress, particularly, in the area of strengthening the capacity and effectiveness of the Joint Technical Working Groups (IWGs) and Government-Donors Coordination Committee (GDCC) by preparing Guidelines on the Establishment and Functioning of TWGs. For instance, the preparation of the meeting, setting agenda for the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, as well as the development of joint monitoring indicators have /;p been discussed within the framework of the enhanced coordinating mechanisms by recognizing the Government’s ownership and enhanced partnership and mutual accountability with the development partners.
48. I am aware that Cambodian Rehabilitation and Development Board and Council for the Development of Cambodia (CRDB/CDC), which is the secretariat of GDCC and CDCF, have prepared an analytical document on Efficiency of Cooperation Financing in Cambodia 2007 for this forum, that outlined in details the utilization of the cooperation financing, the challenges and recommendations that both partners need to pay attention for future implementation. I strongly hope that this report will receive special attention from the forum participants through the discussions to find practical measures to enhance the efficiency of our cooperation based on the spirit of real partnership and the increased respect for Cambodia’s Ownership.Before concluding my remark, I would like to make another proposal on the date for the second CDCF. As you might know, Cambodia will hold general elections in mid-2008 to elect the National Assembly of the new legislature. According to past experiences, during the election year, we have always agreed to hold this meeting at the end of the year, which would allow enough time to set up a new government. Therefore, the two-day meeting of the second Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum will be held in December 2008, as convenient. However, I think that the GDCC will decide on the concrete date. I hope for your understanding regarding this proposal.
49. I have spent considerable time to discuss and highlight the progress in key sectors and plans for the future. Certainly, strategies and goals on the paper provide an important first step. What is more important is to prepare and plans by taking real actions in order to achieve the agreed strategies. Indeed, it is more difficult to do than to talk. We know this much better than anyone else that we still have a long way to go in our journey toward progress and prosperity.
50. Reform is not a shallow word. Implementing reforms does not only require political will, but also considerable human and financial resources. The political and cultural contexts should also be taken into consideration. I recognize the ambition, the enormous efforts and the challenges confronting us. This requires the participation from all relevant actors, and not just observers and critics.
51. The overall image that I have tried to pain for all of you today shows the distance that Cambodia has made during the last 10 years. During the last 4 years the pace has accelerated to transform a war-torn and poverty-stricken country into a nation firmly on tracks of progress and realization of its potentials. However, on every step forward, we encounter more new challenges; but we see clearly the horizon of hope and we will do our best to lift Cambodia and Cambodians toward betterment.
52. In closing, let me thank you all for your patience and attention. My intention is to assure you of our unity, sincerity and seriousness of purpose in pursuing progressive policies and measures of our own. The road ahead has become much clearer, but is still long and difficult, and the solidarity of the international community with the aspirations of the Cambodian people continues to be vital.
53. The Royal Government of Cambodia is represented in the first CDCF meeting by an experienced and able senior delegation led by H.E. Keat Chhon. As stated earlier, my government colleagues will be with you and share with you the details of our programs and all the information required about the various aspects of our socio-economic situation and our needs.
54. I would like to wish all of you good health and success in all your endeavors. I wish fruitful deliberations at the first CDCF.