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World Bank: Cambodia Has Made Progress But Some Reforms Still Needed - 2002-06-21

Cambodia has received pledges of more than $600 million from international donors for the coming year. But international donors are again warning the Cambodian government that more needs to be done in fighting graft and protecting the environment, to ensure assistance continues.

The international aid pledges account for more than half the government's total budget. The pledges came Friday at the end of an annual meeting of the Cambodia Consultative Group.

Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said the $600 million are, in his words, a reward for the government's efforts in earlier reforms. Phnom Penh had asked for $484 million in aid this year. Cham Prasidh acknowledged progress in some areas was slow. He blames that, not on a lack of political will, but a lack of political expertise.

Cambodia, one of the world's poorest nations, has been able to establish some political stability in recent years, after almost three decades of bloodshed and internal civil strife. Only five years ago, Cambodian tanks and gunfire were on the streets of Phnom Penh, in a struggle for political control.

Since then, the government has made progress in political and social stability. The World Bank, in a release Friday, welcomed progress in some areas, but said gaps still remained in forestry protection and civil service reforms.

The bank commends Cambodia for appointing an auditor-general and undertaking other legal reforms, such as adoption of a land law.

Some donors, however, urge the government to set priorities on reforms, and warn that increased aid support should not be taken for granted.

A U.S. diplomat in Cambodia said Washington pledged $45 million. That includes $3 million from the Centers for Disease Control and $2.5 million to help remove land mines.

This year, donors are expected to look for improvements in the pace of reform, especially in fighting corruption, improving the legal system, increasing protection for human rights, demobilizing the military and protecting the environment.