Samdech, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Members of the Royal Government
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once again, I deeply and sincerely thank Samdech, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen for joining this important conference and for contributing comprehensive and constructive ideas and recommendations with the spirit of high responsibility, aimed at boosting reform process in all sectors, especially governance reform in Cambodia in order to strengthen the foundation for national economic development and poverty reduction for the people.
On behalf of the Royal Government (RG) and my own behalf, I would like to express my appreciation to the management and all colleagues of the RG who have exerted their efforts with all development partners of Cambodia including donors, civil society and private sector to promote governance in Cambodia.
I particularly thank H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister SOK AN who has provided us with a comprehensive report on the outcome of the discussion and the resolution of the national conference resulted from the active deliberation over the last three days.
I am convinced that we all have efficiently spent the three days and have achieved fruitful and encouraging results. I am aware that all participants have carefully listened to speeches, discussed and sought clarifications from the heads of respective institutions of the RG and provincial authorities on major topics related to “Good Governance” in view of boosting successful implementation of the “Rectangular Strategy”, following the CG Meeting which took place on 6-7 December 2004.
The conference expressed full support for the political platform of the RG, and the “Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in Cambodia” that I myself, on behalf of the RG, laid it out as economic policy agenda of the RG’s political platform in the third legislature of the National Assembly. I can say that the most important outcome of this three days conference is the adoption of a unified resolution among ministries/institutions and units of the RG on a comprehensive reform agenda, whereby “Good Governance” is the core or backbone and with concrete priority action plan, and with strong and serious commitment towards achieving major goal of the nation, that is the poverty reduction for people.
I would like once again to stress that in the process towards rapid poverty reduction for the people, the best strategy of the RG will be centered on the achievement of:
1. long term sustainable economic growth,
2. distribution of economic growth with equity between the have and have not, between cities and rural areas, and between different sexes, and
3. assurance in management and sustainable use of natural environment and resources.
Poverty reduction is gigantic war that requires sacrifice and common efforts with strong will and commitment. Indeed, economic growth is the most efficient weapon for combating poverty. In order to achieve high economic growth, the RG has adopted major policies, aimed at ensuring macroeconomic stability, diverting the use of all kinds of available or mobilized resources of the nation including financial, natural and human resources to sectors with high social and economic efficiency, and integrate Cambodia into regional and global economy. Indeed, we have adopted the four strategic rectangles for economic growth namely: (i) enhancement of agriculture sector, (ii) private sector development and employment generation, (iii) continued rehabilitation and construction of physical infrastructure, and (iv) capacity building and human resource development.
However, the poor are unable to absorb full benefit from growth if there is no equity in distribution of the fruits of growth. This highlights the importance of good governance. Moreover, long term economic growth and efficient and sustainable use of all kinds of resources of the nation cannot be achieved in the context of weak and facetious “Governance”. This once again underlines the importance of “Good Governance”.
As I stressed in my opening remarks at this national conference that “bad governance” is the obstacle for the development of a healthy private sector. It weakens institutions, encourages corruption, complicates legal, regulatory system and administrative procedures, confuses the interpretation and enforcement of laws with discretionary changes and non-application, creates great losses of state’s revenue and misuse of state’s expenditure and reduces efficiency and quality of public services. For these reasons, the ultimate result is the loss of investors, entrepreneurs, international community and our own Cambodian people’s confidence on the country and Cambodian institutions. In short, “Good Governance” is the key of RG’s efforts in reducing poverty for the people through the motto of “long term growth with sustainable environment and social equity”. “Bad Governance” is an enormous burden for national economy, which causes damages to the RG’s efforts in reducing poverty for the people.
On this basis, I am convinced that no one is doubtful of the fact that “Good Governance” is the “Core” or “Backbone” of the Rectangular Strategy.
As the conference has appropriately noticed, efforts for good governance are not brand new for the RG. Over the past, we implemented Governance Action Plan I (GAP I) and achieved an encouraging outcome. We notice that the implementation of GAP is extremely important for management and development of Cambodia. Therefore, the RG has encouraged to prepare GAP II by focusing mainly on continued implementation of reform measures in legal and judiciary sector, public administration, decentralization and deconcentration, local governance, public finance, private sector development, military demobilization, sustainable use of natural resources in view of increasing public service efficiency, ensuring transparency, accountability, predictability and anti-corruption. Detailed tasks, program and action plans have been prepared and continuously improved. And they have been now disseminated for consultation.
The RG is well aware that the strengthening of structure and institutional capacity is the key for continuing a strict implementation of all reform tasks. In anti-corruption efforts, the RG has once prepared the draft law on anti-corruption and we are now committed to reviewing and improving in accordance with international best practices before re-submitting to the legislative institutions for discussion and adoption. At the same time, we are currently preparing anti-corruption strategy and its action plan including the possibility of creating efficient mechanisms to enforce the law on anti-corruption.
We have accurately prepared strategies, programs and action plans for justice, judiciary reform and public administrative reform. We have discussed and conducted many workshops including this conference. However, we still hear complaints and concerns from our development partners that Cambodia achieved little progress in these two sectors. For this reason, I am proud to see the clear commitment made by the conference to enhancing successful implementation of concrete reform measures that we have adopted in these two sectors.
A strict and transparent control on revenue collection and revenue remittance, and on public expenditure management is the best measure for combating corruption and increasing public service efficiency. Moreover, we have an immediate agenda for efforts in developing private sector and employment, especially through addressing governance issues in order to improve investment environment, trade facilitation and enhance SMEs. In coordination with development partners and private sector, we have prepared accurate and concrete action plan and mechanisms for implementation and clear monitoring in public financial management reform and private sector development. For this reason, we must rapidly move forward through concrete implementation.
Besides the above work plans, we still have reform targets in many other sectors that we need to succeed as stated in the detailed report and resolution of this national conference. Nonetheless, what is most important and that I mention again and again is my request to the management and public servants at all levels of the RG to bare in mind from now on that “job efficiency and concrete progress are the only most important measurement of our success”.
Indeed, the RG is well aware of challenges in addressing governance issues. A solution to these challenges requires not only full implementation of democracy with public participation, but it also requires preparation and establishment of legal system, regulations and code of conduct, especially it requires skilled and experienced human resources with the sense of morality and professionalism. This requires the RG to pay more attention on providing appropriate payroll to armed forces, public servants in the public function and judiciary sector. At the same time, it requires also change in personal attitudes and mentality of our whole nation. All of these are hard responsibility that cannot be achieved within a year or two. In contrary, it requires sharp will, art of wisdom and skillful leadership, patience in continually moving forward in the next decades and generations. Saying this does not mean that we can escape from responsibilities ahead of us. We must exert all our efforts at this time by adopting clear objectives and action plans and must be committed to concrete progress. The most important thing in this regard is that we should know how to resolve the issues step by step and at the right place.
To summarize, what I have described above is a common scene of governance and issues that we must overcome. This task is easy to say but difficult to implement. We all know that there’s a long journey ahead of us. As I have mentioned past achievements of Cambodia and our strict implementation have clearly illustrated challenges and tasks for us to resolve and carry out ahead. We must streamline our commitment in order to improve governance if we want to resolve poverty issues. Moreover, we must fill in the spirit of ownership in development process and our achievements among people in all social strata. In this long and tough journey, we also need generous and truthful supports from development partners, donors, private sector and civil society at large.
Once again, may I take this opportunity to thank the members, public servants at all levels of the RG who participate in this important national conference and who have contributed and made valuable achievements over the past in serving Cambodia. On behalf of the RG, I urge the management, public servants of ministries/institutions including the legislative, executive and judiciary institutions, the armed forces, local authorities at all levels and every citizen as well as the development partners to fully support and actively engage with the RG in moving toward development goals and poverty reduction for the Cambodian people.
Finally, I wish you all, Samdech, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Five Gems of Buddhist Wishing. I now declare the closing of this national conference.