Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Your Excellency SHYAM BAJPAI, Country Director of the Asian Development Bank,
Cambodia Resident Mission,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Compatriots and Dear Students,
It is my great honor to be here today in Cheang Tong Commune, Tram Kak District, Takeo Province to join you all, Venerable Buddhist Monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Compatriots and Students, in the official inauguration ceremony of the 28 new commune administrative office buildings.
Taking this great opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and myself, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all civil servants, armed forces, compatriots, teachers and students of Cheang Tong Commune for their participation at this joyful event and for their warm welcome extended to me and to the delegation.
All these 28 new commune administrative office buildings in the Takeo province are constructed under the Commune Council Development Project (CCDP) with the loan provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Through this important project, the RGC plans to construct 425 new commune office buildings in 20 provinces. Indeed, new office buildings that have been built at this time are for those communes that have no administrative offices for their normal functioning. The selection of which communes should first have newly constructed office building was done in transparent manner and with appropriate justifications. All these 425 commune administrative office buildings have been constructed in accordance with agreed plan, which is decorated with the Khmer style design. I have been informed that during the construction of these commune offices, even if technical assistance was provided by the secretariat of the National Committee for the Supports to Commune/Sangkat Councils, including engineers and architects, commune councils themselves together with participation of people in the communes conducted bidding processes, identified contractors, managed and controlled the construction processes. Furthermore, due to limited resources under the project, the people in these communes provided additional contributions for the construction. Thus, the construction of commune offices under the Commune Council Development Project, which supported by the ADB was linked to decentralization process in the commune/sangkat. Through this process, participation of people from commune/sangkat levels, who are the true owners of these buildings, is important while we can only provide support in terms of policy and technical aspects at the national, provincial or district levels.
I am aware that until now, all these 28 communes that have received support from the project have completed the construction. The buildings are of good quality according to the design, technical characteristics and other standard requirements. Through this proud outcome, I can assess that our communes/sangkats, despite the fact that they have just started to implement decentralization policy, are able to gradually undertake activities leading to accomplish these fruitful outcomes along with the support and participation of our people and relevant institutions/agencies.
As what has been pointed out in the Governor’s report, Cheang Tong commune is one of the 28 communes that the National Committee for the Support to Communes/Sangkats, local authorities of Takeo Province as well as engineers and architects have identified as the leading commune in achieving most fruitful results in the construction process raging from bidding, section of contractor, construction management to the compliance to technical standards and participation of the people. For this reason Cheang Tong commune has been chosen to hold the inauguration ceremony of all the 28 administrative office buildings.
On behalf of the RGC, I highly appreciate and sincerely praise Commune Council and people of Cheang Tong for their solidarity in successfully implementing with strong sense of responsibility the construction of this administrative building. At the same time, I am convinced that other 27 communes have also achieved excellent results especially basic technical norms.
These newly built administrative offices bear the beauty of Khmer style design and of good quality. All the 420 commune offices that have been built or still under construction also have the same design. Indeed, all these commune offices are the symbol of modernization and democratization within good governance reform process in Cambodia. According to the architect design, the style of gable of all the 420 commune buildings is similar to the one of the National Assembly building. This reflects the link between national and local authorities (communes/sangkats). Members of National Assembly and members of Commune Councils are directly elected by the people through democratic ballots. National Assembly building is the place where members of the National Assembly meet at national level to discuss and decide on matters that are related to national as well as Cambodian people’s interest. Whereas these new commune buildings are dedicated to elected people at commune level to discuss and decide on matters related to their own commune as well as people’s interest that is closely linked to national interest as a whole. In order to strengthen good governance at local level through democracy and decentralization rooting, Law on the Governing of Communes/Sangkats stated that meetings of Commune/Sangkat Councils shall be public which means people can participate in and observe all meetings. For this, all new commune offices have wide open square in the middle of their compound to serve for Commune Councils’ meeting. In doing so, anyone can participate in observing meetings of Commune Councils at anytime. Taking this opportunity, I urge all Commune Councils to disseminate their meetings schedule to everyone and I urge our people to observe all meetings of their own Commune Councils. At the same time, these new commune office buildings are not only dedicated to daily functioning or meetings of the Commune Councils but they also serve many other purposes such as for education purpose, meetings and dissemination of information on health care, hygiene, agriculture, social matters as well as community meetings to discuss matters related to community interest. They can also serve as ideal place where people and community gather to celebrate and organize traditional ceremonies. For this end, commune office buildings as well as their compound are public properties of the commune community as a whole. From this important view, on behalf of the RGC I propose to the commune authorities and people in all communes to carefully conserve and maintain the beauty and quality of these 28 new commune buildings as their owns’.
On behalf of the RGC and myself, I sincerely thank the ADB and all development partners for their support for decentralization process in Cambodia. Once again, I also thank and sincerely appreciate the National Committee for the Support to Communes/Sangkats, authorities of Takeo Province, members of Commune Councils, people, public servants of the Department of Local Administration and their engineers and architects, administrative units of Takeo Province and district authorities for their unified support to the construction process of these 28 new commune administrative office buildings.
All the new commune administrative buildings that are being inaugurated today are not the only achievement of the decentralization reform process in Cambodia. In fact, over the last three years, we have achieved other fruitful results from this reform process such as establishing regulations, trainings, capacity-building, establishing development plans, financing to communes/sangkats… etc. With this, we can assess that new governance system at commune/sangkat level has been gradually in operations with significant results. Indeed, within the last three years, many small scale development projects at local level have been managed and implemented directly by commune/sangkats councils and people of the communes/sangkats. Among those projects, ones that are easy to be evaluated are those related to infrastructure such as rural roads, drainage system, bridges dams and small scale irrigation system… etc. If these development projects were transferred under the management of commune/sangkat councils and local communities, we are strongly convinced that they will be of good quality and that technical standards would be complied. This can be reflected in today inaugurated commune buildings. According to some studies, costs experienced to be lower if the construction projects are managed by commune/sangkat authorities than they are managed by other institutions, authorities or organizations. It is one of the evidences to prove the quality of our reform and it is a model of devolution and transfer of resources to local level. This will clear out the doubt that grass root level does not have enough capacity in management and allocate resources effectively. On the other hand, if the urgent needs of the grass root level have been provided with resources and clear technical and capacity support, participation and ownership is promoted accordingly. This is the core of sustainable development. Therefore, the establishment of elected commune/sangkat councils is the great social and political achievement in Cambodia. This has great impact on promoting good governance, poverty reduction and improving livelihood of the people at grass root level.
For these reasons, further strengthening commun/sangkat to come strong institutions with competence and resourceful for local development aiming at contributing to poverty reduction is an important direction that we have to attain in the future. To achieve that, we have to work together to work out the following issues:
1- Building and strengthening capacity of commune/sangkat and local communities in obtaining resources for their community development to serve both immediate and long-term needs.
2- Establishing appropriate cooperation and coordination among communes/sangkats, sectoral offices and communities in order to provide important public services such as human resources development, roads infrastructure, bridges, clean water, electricity, health care and welfare programs for the people and the poor.
3- Establishing good mechanism to ensure that the poor will have access to local resources such as land, forest, fishery and natural resources through delegation of appropriate duties to local authorities.
4- Strengthening policy that promotes partnership among communes/sangkats and with the civil society, NGOs and private sector to contribute to poverty reduction and impove the standard of living of the communities.
5- Organizing the governance structure at provincial/municipal and district/khan in line with the “Decentralization and Deconcentration Reform Strategy” that is adopted by the Royal Government in June 2005. All the points that made in this strategic framework aim at increasing possibility for provinces/municipalities and districts/khans to participate in the development and poverty reduction process.
According to H.E. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and co-minister of Interior, who has led the decentralization and deconcentration reform, preparations to establish organic law for provincial/municipal and district\khan management in line with the strategic framework of the Royal Government is forcefully underway including independent studies under current supporting reform programs aiming at seeking appropriate options to create programs to support further decentralization and deconcentration reform.
On behalf of the Royal Government and the people of Cambodia as and on my own behalf, I would take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to all development partners who contribute all kind of supports to poverty reduction and sustainable development in Cambodia, especially to provide enormous support either in terms of technical or financial assistance for the success of the Government’s decentralization and deconcentration reform. I hope that development partners in Cambodia will continue supporting the process of decentralization and deconcentration reform aiming at strengthening and expanding democracy, enhancing good governance, and reducing poverty as well as contributing to the achievement of the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals.
In conclusion, let me extend to you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished national and international guesses, and all students, the five gems of Buddhist Blessing. In this great opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government, I now declare the official opening 28 new Commune Administrative Office buildings in Takeo Province.