Your Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives of the Donor Community,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Royal Government of Cambodia,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great honor and pleasure to once again meet and dialogue with the distinguished representatives of Cambodia’s development partners. Please allow me to warmly welcome all Your Excellencies, the representatives of Cambodia’s development partners who are participating in this important meeting. This dialogue marks another milestone in the continuing drive of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the donor community to act decisively in implementing the reform agenda, which we jointly agreed upon at the Consultative Group Meeting here in Phnom Penh last June 2002.
Indeed, we meet at a crucial juncture in Cambodia’s history. Our “Economic Government” has been in office for 50 months. Thus it is appropriate that we make a candid assessment of our achievements and performance against set goals. This exercise is important, since through it we will learn from the experiences of implementation. The assessment will also highlight the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the reform process. As a result we will be able to work out more effective and efficient action plans and measures to sustain and accelerate our efforts in fruitful momentum.
In this regard, I am pleased to inform you all that on 20 December 2002, the Royal Government adopted the National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS). The NPRS sets our directions in development governance over the next three years. This important document was prepared in extensive consultation with all government ministries and agencies, the National Assembly and Senate, the donor community, NGOs, the private sector and most especially the poor themselves.
Even as we take note of the advances made so far, we do recognize that much more remains to be done, by all of us together, to implement the strategies, policies, programs and measures set out in the NPRS. These actions include concrete steps to be taken to improve governance, build up national capacity and further coordinate and fine-tune our development programs. As a major step, we have decided that to avoid overlaps in development directions, the next NPRS and the third Socio-Economic Development Plan (SEDP III) will be merged into a single strategic document. This will to enhance ownership and further mainstream participation in the development, implementation and monitoring of poverty reduction activities in Cambodia.
Moreover, we have decided that the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) and the Council for Social Development(CSD) will henceforth be the key bodies responsible for the formulation of national policies and strategies for poverty reduction. The SNEC will exercise its role, as it has already been performing, in support of the Prime Minister in the area of development strategy and policy. Thus the SNEC will serve as the Prime Minister’s “Think Tank“, contributing to the NPRS2 with regard to overall strategy and policy formulation. The CSD will serve as a focal point for technical coordination and manage the consultation and participation processes, as well as monitoring of operational activities and implementation of the strategy.
Within the Second Term of the Royal Government, this is the last opportunity jointly with Cambodia’s development partners for stocktaking and dialogue on Cambodia’s reform programs. Due to the conduct of the national elections on 27 July 2003, the next CG may need to be set toward the end of 2003 or even early in 2004. Thus it is necessary that at this time we will discuss achievements and performance of the Royal Government not only during the last six months, but to take an overall view of performance over the last 50 months of the current mandate, covering the continuous efforts exerted by the Government, reflecting its firm commitment in implementing and accelerating the reforms regardless of difficulties and challenges, especially during the election year.
In this sense, I emphasize that we have decided to extend our discussions from only half a day to a full day. We should take note that detailed discussions have already taken place at the working group meetings prior to today’s dialogue. As before, we will listen to the Executive Summaries of the topics discussed in the working groups to be presented by the representatives of the Royal Government and the donor community. I and my colleagues from the Royal Government will be here the whole day to listen carefully to the presentations and discussions. We will be grateful for your concrete recommendations and suggestions and will carefully consider all these for adoption and implementation.
Today, we will discuss the important reforms undertaken by the Government and the cooperation between Cambodia and its development partners. These topics include:
Governance Reform, Legal and Judicial Reform, Fiscal Reform, Social Sector Reforms, Public Administration Reform, and Reform in Natural Resources Management.
Indeed, you are all aware that forestry is right now a very hot issue that has increasingly caught the attention of the public during the last few weeks. May I take this opportunity to ensure clear understanding of this issue right at the outset of our dialogue. I hereby reaffirm that the Royal Government will not make a step backward, but will continue to be steadfast and remains strongly committed to reform of the forestry sector.
Thus the Royal Government has no intention whatsoever, to suspend nor to cease the process and mechanism of forest crimes monitoring. The Government remains committed ensuring the continuity of this mechanism and to the nationwide implementation of a strong, effective, credible and reliable system of forest monitoring. I believe, this is our common objective, to which we have all agreed, and which serves as the basis for continued cooperation and partnership between the RGC and the development partners.
In exercising its management of the current situation, the Royal Government has proposed a flexible, constructive and compromise solution, that a new monitoring agency be sought and appointed without disrupting the process forest crimes monitoring and other reforms in the forest sector.
I believe all of you can understand the roots of this problem. The current issues have emerged from the repeatedly hostile, faulty, unfair and destructive attitude and behavior of the current forestry monitoring agent, adversely affecting the national integrity and credibility of the Royal Government and especially the interests of the Cambodian people. Such behavior has ultimately led the former partners to lose mutual trust and confidence. The state of affairs has now degenerated beyond repair. This situation is akin to the joint process necessary to the choice of one’s life-long partner or spouse. The Royal Government considers all our development partners not only close friends but as relatives. Certainly, close friends and relatives will not force their fellow friends and relatives to suffer a bad marriage where the partners no longer love nor trust each other.
We will discuss the details of the forestry issue in the agenda on the reform of natural resources management. As I have stated on many occasions, the Royal Government does not consider the acts of monitoring, constructive criticism, and recommendations by donors as burdensome conditionalities. Indeed, I urge my colleagues here and all development partners to continue the tradition of close dialogue, and therefore discuss issues and challenges of Cambodia’s reforms in a candid and frank manner. We welcome constructive suggestions and opinions and consider these as the caring concerns of the development partners. And, like before, my colleagues and I will be happy to answer your questions and provide comments on any issues that require clarification.
Finally, I again express our deep and sincere gratitude for all your efforts to cooperate with us in re-directing and moving Cambodia towards a bright future through poverty reduction and sustainable development. Together, let us work toward a successful monitoring meeting!