Excellencies and Samdech Deputy Prime Ministers, Co-Ministers of Interior
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I have great pleasure to join you all in Sihanoukville at the opening of the national workshop on “Strategic Framework for Decentralization and Deconcentration Reforms.”
On the outset, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, I would like to extend my appreciation for the efforts of the Ministry of Interior, Council for the Development of Cambodia and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which are the key players in this matter, including all relevant parties such as national ministries/institutions, development partners, civil societies and private sectors that have actively contributed to the decentralization and deconcentration reforms in Cambodia.
At the same time, I also would like to express appreciation to His Excellency Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-Minister of Interior for his efforts in leading the decentralization and deconcentration policy reforms, in particular for coordinating the government working groups to formulate document on “National Strategic Framework for Decentralization and Deconcentration Reforms” that has presently finished its third draft. I am convinced that after the Council of Ministries’ review and adoption, this National Strategic Framework will become a core document to be used to formulate organization law in order to govern provinces/cities, districts/khans and to develop other programs for decentralization and deconcentration reforms.
Indeed, organizing the national workshop on “Strategic Framework for Decentralization and Deconcentration Reforms”today is one of the important components in the process of implementing public administration reform program and this reform is a comprehensive reform that not only has an impact on local and national level authorities, but also this reform will affect all government structures and institutions. Moreover, the reform requires the highest political commitments and the change in behaviors in order to attain new approach to formulate new management practice and human resource allocation with efficiency, transparency and high accountability with new ideas and within good governance framework.
As I have mentioned many times already, the decentralization reform must proceed in parallel with the deconcentration reform because these two reforms are supporting and complementary to each other. Experiences from the practical implementation of many countries show that decentralization per se cannot be successfully achieved without full support from the deconcentration. In particular, at the present time, Cambodia already developed the third draft of the government strategy framework on decentralization and deconcentration. However, we also know that we need technical and financial assistances to implement this policy framework. On the one hand, we have the institution for formulating strategy and implementing agencies including many development partners, on the other hand decentralization and deconcentration models have different experiences from one country to another. We shall consider the approach to establish a facilitating mechanism to implement policy and strategy on deconcentration and to update the regulation on decentralization to ensure smoothness and consistency between decentralization and deconcentration policies as well.
At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize again that ministries/institutions cannot do every thing to meet the needs of the local instead of local government. We are all clearly aware that “participation from the local level to develop grass-root level” is a key in terms of ownership and sustainable development. In this sense, to strengthen the implementation of decentralization and deconcentration policy with good progress, all relevant ministries/departments have to offer more responsibilities to provinces/cities in terms of formulating plan and program or development project implementations. Nevertheless, we need to maintain vertical structures to be under general responsibility and coordination of respective ministries/agencies at the national level. Indeed, implementing the deconcentration agenda will provide opportunity to provinces/cities to have additional resources and to use those resources effectively to respond to the needs of the people. Nonetheless, we have to remember that the implementation of this deconcentration policy at the national level should be proceeded with cautious in order to prevent the situation of “establishing state within the state”.
I believe that this workshop will provide opportunity to all civil servants including to provincial governors, provincial deputy governors, donor communities, NGOs and civil societies to discuss and share views on vision’s goals, strategic direction and national programs of “Strategic Framework for Decentralization and Deconcentration Reforms” in order to improve the quality of this document aligning with the context of managing socio-economic development within the principles of market and democracy.
In retrospect, the Royal Government and major development partners have spent a lot of resources and time on work of decentralization and deconcentration. However, those efforts have not been well coordinated due to lacking a strategic framework for this sector. At the same time, the building and implementing “Strategic Framework for Decentralization and Deconcentration Reforms” that we are going to discuss today is sine qua non for leadership and administrative management at local level to be in harmonization and sustainability.
Therefore, the workshop on strategic framework for decentralization and deconcentration reforms is a major opportunity for the Royal Government and other main role-play to review and assess the activities and programs that had been implemented in order to merge into a new strategic framework to have the effective implementation. The strategic framework for decentralization and deconcentration reforms is the main policy document of the government, which reflects:
- Vision and basic principle of the Royal Government to govern the governance reform at the sub national (provinces/cities, districts/khans, and communes/sangkats).
- Determining the goals of national strategy for decentralization and deconcentration reform.
- Organizing management structure at the sub-national level in order to achieve the goals of national strategy for decentralization and deconcentration reforms.
- Confining the scope of national programs for implementing decentralization and deconcentration reforms as well as the structure for managing the program.
In this context, the strategic framework document is going to be a guideline for all activities that are related to governance system at the sub-national level. At the same time, the policies, procedures and operational forms of governmental ministries and institutions that are related to the roles and responsibilities division in public sector and resources management at all levels of public administration have to be consistent with goals and principles of decentralization and deconcentration framework and coordination with the structure arrangement. This is the principle document for roles and responsibilities division for all units of government system at sub-national level.
Presently, we are in 2005 which is the second year of the Royal Government for the third mandate of the National Assembly and is the first year to implement the government policy and “Rectangular Strategy” of the Royal Government. Indeed, from now until the end of its mandate, the Royal Government has to double its effort to achieve its reform programs in government policy platform and Rectangular Strategy.
In this regard, on behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to appeal to all levels of civil servants and armed forces to actively and seriously implement reform programs as stated in the government platform and Rectangular Strategy in order to make social progress as desired and proposed by the people of Cambodia as well as all of us here.
Decentralization and deconcentration play very important role in implementing reform programs which is the core of“Rectangular Strategy”. Based on the achievement and efforts of the government of second mandate of the National Assembly, the decentralization programs that have been implemented for three years are considered to be successful for its beginning stage of reform policy which is very new in Cambodian context.
However, I think that we have a lot of works that we need to work harder in supporting communes/sangkats, especially capacity building and providing finance, which include the immediate creation of direct income sources for the communes/sangkats, transferring and delegating works to communes/sangkats. The importance is the work related to providing services at local level to make communes/sangkats to be an institution that are capable in providing services and development effectively to strengthen and to enhance local governance with democracy, decentralization, commune council election in the second term in 2007, which cannot be delayed.
Therefore, we need to review the law on commune council election and law on managing communes/sangkats in 2005. If there is any point, which should be reviewed and added, the proposal for the amendment should be submitted on time, so that we will have enough time to prepare for the election and implementation of decentralization.
At the same time, the reform on provinces, cities and districts is the most important need in the reform process of good governance at the sub-national level. The presence of the organization law to govern provinces, cities and districts from 1993 to the present time have created an uncertainty in governing this administrative level. In this situation, the relation and responsibility among ministries and institutions of the Royal Government with provinces, cities and districts have created many difficulties in preparing development plans, providing services, managing natural resources and land issues etc.
When the Royal Government promotes the implementation of reform at the communes/sangkats level, the problem, that we have not clearly determined the structure of provinces/cities, districts/khans and communes/sangkats, have created more problems on the relation between provinces, cities, districts and communes. Therefore, this reform will solve all of the challenging issues for the decentralization process of communes/sangkats, and it is an effective way to promote development and to reduce poverty at the local level all over the country.
The experiences from other countries that have done successful reforms show that they need time and to be patient to win over old and obsolete behaviors and ideas in order to move forewords to new ideas with good governance.
In order to promote our country to reach the above objective, I strongly believe that Cambodia has no choice other than to continue strict implementation of all reforms to be deeper and broader. Reform is a matter of live and death for Cambodia. If we are united to do the reform, we hope that we will be able to liberate ourselves from poverty and regain the dignity of a nation, which used to have a rich and noble civilization.
As you all know, the decentralization and deconcentration reform is one of the reforms on state work structure, especially reforms on the behaviors of government officials at all levels, which is at the starting point of a long road. Therefore, program management and budget management with transparency, accountability and efficiency is the most important priority in the governance principles of the government.
In this framework, I would like to appeal to all officials, both civil servants and armforces, to actively participate to implement all reforms in the policy program and “Rectangular Strategy” of the Royal Government to contribute the development of nation with honor. At the same time, I would like to appeal to all ministries-institutions of the Royal Government and authority at all levels to be hurry to strictly implement all reforms in ministries-institutions and its administrative level in order to allow all of us to reach a society with progress. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to donor communities to provide necessary support both technical and financial for the implementation of decentralization and deconcentration reforms to expand and enhance quality of public services to serve the real benefits of the people at local level.
Before ending, on behalf of the government and myself, I would once again to sincerely appreciate Excellencies and Samdech Deputy Prime Ministers and Co-ministers of Interior, the management, officials of the ministry and national institutions for the contribution in the decentralization and deconcentration reforms as well as all national reforms in all sectors.
On behalf of the government, the Cambodian people and myself, I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound thanks to all donors that have contributed to cause of poverty reduction and sustainable development, especially both technical and financial supports for the success of the decentralization and deconcentration reforms.
At the end, as the Cambodian New Year is coming close, I would like to wish Samdech, Excellencies, members of the Royal Government and representatives of donor communities as well as Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen who are present here with the five blessing Buddhist gems.
Thank you for your attention, I would like to officially declare the opening of the national workshop “Strategic Framework for Decentralization and Deconcentration Reform” from now on. EndItem.