At the welcoming ceremony for the in-coming minister for Rural Development in the third-term Royal Government, Samdech Hun Sen made a speech on a wide range of issues relating to rural development in Cambodia and CNV is making an abridged and selected version here as follows:
… I am indeed honored and pleased to be able to join with all of you today to celebrate the welcoming ceremony for the in-coming minister, HE Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng, for rural development. On this auspicious occasion I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the work fulfilled by the Ministry of Rural Development under the leadership of HE Ly Thuch in the second term Government, which gives a great effects on the efforts to reduce our people’s poverty. My thanks also go to the office of rural development of all levels for the same efforts and achievements. Rural development was first under the leadership of HE Hong Sun Huot, and later of HE Chhim Seak Leng, HE Ly Thuch, and now of HE Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng. As he is already 67 years old, I would request that his office is set up at the ground floor rather than having him going up to the third floor.
… Countryside is the source of resources and workforce supply for hotels, factories, etc. in the city. We have to exert efforts to provide rural areas with clean water, irrigation, good road condition, telecommunication, market opportunity, schools, etc. all of which aim to promote poverty alleviation through the narrowing of gap between rural and urban areas. Taking its complex nature into consideration, Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranaridh and I set up the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) as a mechanism to help coordinate such a complex environment. For example, the Asian Development Bank has been providing its school assistance through two channels – the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Rural Development, an action that has to be coordinated so as prioritization and equal distribution of assistance and wealth could be managed.
… It is worth recalling what I used to say in relation to rural development. We need to focus on three factors so that rural area could jump out of its cycle of poverty. First, it should be the water supply – drinking, irrigation, and I know that the Ministry of Rural Development has been doing a lot with the help from the People’s Republic of China in digging water wells and reservoirs. Second, efforts must be made to build more rural infrastructure and transport facility. From our experience, take for instance in the district of Snuol of Kratie province, water has been always sufficient for the cultivation of all sorts of crops but our people in the area do not grow major crops. The problem has been that the area does not have a workable road condition that transport of agro-products to the market would cost sky high. HE Ngy Chan Phal, Under-Secretary of State for rural development, has been conducting this wide-ranging topic study. In Siemreap, the betterment of road condition from rural areas to town and its market condition brought about a significant increase in the volume of products. I would therefore recommend that priority and investment should be given to and made on the betterment of infrastructure and communication in rural area. On July 25, 2004, I will visit the construction site of the Bridge of Doeum Sdao in the district of Koh Sotin of Kompong Cham.
… Third, investment in the betterment of human resources must continue to be a priority as well. Take for example more schools in rural areas need to be constructed. Requirement of school building will never be satisfied as the number of population is growing at a pace of about 2.4% per year. This indicates that more requirements of food, clothing, schools, health centers, etc are needed. The three factors –infrastructure, water supply and irrigation, and human resources are keys to rural development. Along with the three, we also need public health service in rural area too because children must all be vaccinated in prevention of polio and other forms of diseases.
… People will tell you what they need in rural area. They will tell you they need school buildings, roads, water canals, etc. But we have to address these tremendous needs with our limited budget. We could not address those needs all in one at the same time. It is therefore necessary to coordinate with the Village Development Committee who have assumed their duties through the village election to allow our people to make their own judgment and decision as to what need to be dealt first and what could be left for later stage. It is indeed a decentralization of power or offering more power to the people. If they say they need water, it falls on the first factor I mentioned above and we could address the need right away. This would be the most appropriate decision making process as we address their needs according to their demands.
… To mention all this because I want all of us — decision makers at the central level – to be aligned with the rights and demand of the people in the rural areas. I think we all have got to come close to the people to listen to their demands and it have been easier to do so these days as we could commute to rural areas quicker and easier. Because of the better road condition, rural areas which used to be far remote is no longer so. Mondulkiri, a province in the far northeast is no longer out of reach. During the Khmer New Year this year, city dwellers stormed out of the cities to enjoy their rest and family get-together in rural areas. There are two reasons that make this possible. First, the security has been improved in rural area because we no longer have fighting or threats as under the Khmer Rouge time. Second, good roads and bridges have city dwellers and rural villagers in close touch. Taking all these into consideration and judgment, I can say that our ministers and staff’s departure in this term is in a better situation compared to the previous terms.
… As HE Lu Lay Sreng said in his speech that he needs the cooperation from all concerned departments, institutions, and especially from Secretaries and Under-Secretaries of State so that this task could be successfully implemented. More than that the success or failure of the Ministry of Rural Development is crucial for the priority action plan of the Government as a whole as it is one of the four prioritized ministries – Ministries of Rural Development, Education, Health and Agriculture. We must see that the Government’s priority action plan’s objectives are implemented successfully.
Those are to guarantee the stability and public order so as to allow more favorable condition for general development, to achieve a long-term economic growth between 6% and 7%, to achieve an equitable distribution of fruit of the economic growth, especially with a focus given on rural areas and therefore narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, women and men, and to make a stable and sustainable use of the natural resources. It is in the aim of achieving this objective the Royal Government has allocated already about half a million hectares of fishing ground, about 56% of the total area of the country’s fishing ground, for use by rural people./.