Samdech, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished National and International Guests,
Today I have great honor and pleasure to join you all in the opening of the national workshop on formulation of the Third 5-year National Strategic Development Plan (2006-2010).
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 Planning especially its technical working group on the formulation of this plan, and for the support of our development partners including the World Bank, UNDP, ADB, GTZ and many others. I believe today workshop will provide you all, the members and key officials of the RGC as well as provincial and municipal governors, donor community, NGOs and the civil society with special opportunity to listen and exchange view and experiences on the vision, strategic objectives and policies for the development of Cambodia within the context of this strategic plan and the overall management of social and economic development which is based on the market and democratic principles.
Indeed, formulating and implementing a national development plan are necessary for governing and managing a country in a consistent and sustainable way. The formulation of a plan, though requiring ambitious visions and targets, must ensure that the plan is realistic in order to achieve faster and desirable development. World experiences have proved the difficulty of countries that have not valued or given proper attention to the process of formulating and implementing national strategic development plans.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has long adhered to the tradition of developing a five-year plan since the Sangkum Reas Niyum under the wise leadership of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the Great Hero King and the Great Farther of Independence, Territorial Integrity and Khmer National Unity, and our most respected former king. The Royal Government is now formulating this National Strategic Plan (2006-2010), which I think, will build up on the SEDPII (2001-2005) whose overall vision is to build up a society of solidarity, vibrant culture, free from poverty, illiteracy and diseases.
On this ample occasion, I would like to share with you some of my views with regards to this national Strategic Development Plan.
As we all aware, during the implementation of the SEDPII the Royal Government has introduced and implemented many key strategies and policies which are very important for the national development and poverty reduction. The provisions and activities defined in those strategies and policies are being implemented and will be reviewed and redefined to incorporate into the NSDP (Third Five-Year Plan), as guided by the 73 points political platform and the Rectangular Strategy, which is an economic agenda of the 3th Mandate Royal Government of Cambodia.
Special attention must be geared toward measures that we will introduce in the next five years in order to ensure the progress in reaching our development visions for Cambodia, which is to reduce the poverty and to meet the CMDG targets 2010 which were launched in March 2004. It is indeed the government objectives in the MDGs to ensure that by 2015 Cambodia will have better human resource, reduce poverty incidence to 19.5%, and have negligible inequality. Moreover, the HIV/AIDs prevalence will be reduced while the conservation of Cambodia environmental heritage will be improved, and all that will promote a Cambodian society which is well connected and with stronger solidarity, without discrimination against women while children will have better access and equal rights to living and education.
Indeed, we envisage many obstacles and challenges ahead us all that need to overcome in the coming years, even though the Royal Government has introduced and implemented wide range of policies and strategies. These include the SEDPI (1996-2000), SEDPII for Growth (2001-2005), Governance and Decentralization Action Plan, Neary Rattanak Gender Program, Education for All, Pro-poor Trade Strategy, NPRS and National Population Policy, and many other sectoral policies and strategies.
Remarkably, the preparation and implementation of the above strategic plan and policies require many pre-conditions such as human resources, that should not be over-looked or excluded. If we do not have enough human resources with capacities and willingness to work, national development certainly will not progress in efficient and sustainable way. In this regard, improving human resources capacity with vigorous willingness and professional ethnic is the priority requirement and a basis for national development with sustainability and equity. The Royal Government has considered human resources development with high quality, both capacity and consciousness, in fulfilling their works and effective utilisation of national intellectuality resources as a long term objective that we all have to continue solving for the cause of Cambodian development towards supremacy, prosperities and harmonization in the 21st century.
Indeed, Cambodia has a long way to go on the road full of obstacles and risks in order to achieve progress, prosperity and development in the rank of developed countries in the region. The efforts to develop in order to reduce poverty are not just for saying to get attention, doing it once for while, or naively and irrationally implementing it. If we can properly manage, have clear working programs and consensus, and put efforts together with passion and honesty, we absolutely can make many positive changes to gradually lift up the living standard from now on.
In this context, the main objective of the royal government’s economic policy is to ensure a macroeconomic and financial environment, which is conducive to promote sustainable economic growth, to reduce poverty through resources mobilizations and efficient utilisation of potential resources, to promote domestic investment in particularly development of small and medium enterprises and domestic handicrafts, to improve entrepreneurship and private capacity, to attract foreign investment and to promote the unilateral and multilateral economic cooperation. Those will create more employment and increase people’s income. Another main objective is to co-ordinate policies with donor community, to strengthen governance, especially on anti-corruption, as well as promoting comprehensive and deep cross-sector reforms. These must be done collectively in one system, which is interrelated and complementary.
The Royal Government strongly commits to promote market economy by promoting an economic system with stable growth in order to promote private sector development, which is a driving force for dynamic national economic development and responsive to the real needs of the country.
Even we have achieved remarkable economic growth in this decade; the poverty has not been reduced as quickly as we want. The poverty index slightly decreased from 39% in 1994 to 36% in 1999. The growth rate of rural economy has not matched to the growth rate of population. In addition, other factors such as the increase of full-time unemployment, low employment creation in non-agriculture sector, and high growth rate of population aged 14-29, are our constraints to overcome in term of providing education services, employment opportunity and reproductive health services etc.
For the present and future in particular “the third five-year plan”, Cambodia has to focus in the following three main points:
First, to speed up and to ensure a sustainable economic growth in between 6-7% per annum.
Second, to implement population policy declared by the Royal government by focusing on birth-spacing and ensuring the quality and health of human resources.
Third, to rigorously implement governance reform especially corruption eradication in order to equally distribute economic outcome.
All I described above are strategic goals and broad policies of the Royal Government, which I believe to help us to move forward. If we just have strategic goals and broad policies while we do not have programs, projects and action plans to implement according to its priorities and no resource mobilisation for the implementation and regular monitoring; our intended success is hopeless. Presently, everything is priority, but we lack all kind of resources. We should not build up a plan that is too easy to implement or the one that is too ambitious, imaginary, irrational and inconsiderate to the capacity and possibility. Thus, we have to construct a development plan that is acceptable, able to implement, and smooth to ensure an endured progress. In this sense, the preparation of “the third five-year plan” requires us to take into account the achievements we got, convenience, inadequacy and difficulties that we have met so far. The result of such judgement assignments, I think that, will provide some inputs to “Cycle Plan” in order to determine immediate priority cluster which represent our development goal, present circumstances, future anticipation, expectation and risks. Those have to link to available resources or mobilization possibility to enforce the plan.
At the end of the speech, I would like to take the opportunity to point out the following development goals and the management process in implementing our “National Strategic Development Plan” :
1- Development objective in preparation of “National Strategic Development Plan”, we should take Cambodia Millennium Development Goals 2010 as a core of this plan. Thus, sectoral programs and strategies need to be aligned to support these development goals.
2- I think that strengthening the preparation mechanism and the management of public investment program at government’s ministries/institutions that are implementation activities of this five years plan will help to promote efficiency of management structure for a better social development of a nation. In this sense, close collaboration and cooperation among all relevant ministries/institutions, in particular between three concerned ministries and institution, the Ministry of Planning, Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance are the key factor which cannot be left out for the success in preparation process and implementation of government plan.
3- I think that it is necessary for us to increase reform efforts in terms of planning and budget preparation process to properly link the priorities of investment programs to the expenditure related decision making process. In this context, I refer to the effective and smooth coordination in the framework of “ the five-year plan”, “ 3 years rolling public investment program” or in other words, called “public investment programming and public investment budgeting program.
Indeed, the main challenge of the Royal Government in this regard is that the national budget still remains in a difficult condition. We have small budget surplus from the current budget to be used for the public investment purposes and most of this fund is ear-marked to be used as the counterpart budget for projects that receive fund from development partners. Therefore, government is left with an extremely small amount of budget saving for public investment activities that sometimes cannot respond to the urgent needs that we face.
4- Because the key sources of public investment in Cambodia come form foreign assistance, I am in view that there should be a discussion to search for a way to incorporate major foreign financial assistances into national budget framework that would enhance the effectiveness of coordination and management of public investment activities further. This is one of the important matters that I would like to put forward for discussion and to exchange ideas in this workshop and if it is possible to provide concrete recommendations in order to further strengthen and to be more effective in terms of government ownership of the development plan including partnership between Royal Government and donor countries. This shall be viewed as an exercise that the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Council for the Development of Cambodia, including line ministries and institutions come together to discuss in order to develop formula and effective implementation procedures to overcome challenges described above.
5- Another point that requires attention is the establishing and strengthening mechanism for monitoring and assessment of the plan implementation. The absence of mechanism for regular monitoring and assessment on progress of plan implementation is a key constraint that we learned from the experiences of second five-year plan. Hence, all ministries/institutions must have close cooperation with the Ministry of Planning, which is in charge of leading this work, to establish an instrument for effective monitoring and assessment of the plan and investment program implementation in their own ministries/institutions.
Before I conclude, I would like to call to all government ministries/institutions and also would like to appeal to all Cambodian development partners and others NGOs to provide necessary cooperation and support to the Ministry of Planning to finalize this third five-year plan by the beginning of 2006. At the same time, there should be high emphasis on developing capacity of Cambodian civil servants, especially technical staff of the Ministry of Planning in respect of monitoring and assessing the implementation of national plan as well as public investment program. I would like to profoundly thank the development partners, in particular international organizations such as UNDP, UNCEF, WFP, UNESCO, FAO, ESCAP and GTZ as well as all development partner countries that have provided assistance to develop this third five-year plan. And I would like to appeal to continue to support the Ministry of Planning to implement the “Cycle plan” meaning to support the development and dissemination of the plan as well as monitoring and assessment of the plan implementation.
In conclusion, I would like to wish a success for this workshop and especially in developing the Third Five-Year National Strategic Development Plan of the Royal Government and may I wish you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Five Gems of Buddhist Blessing. I would like to declare the official opening of the national workshop for formulation of the Third Five-Year National Strategic Development Plan (2006-2010) from now onwards.