Cambodia:

Governance Reform Progressing, But Key Efforts Are Lagging

GAO-02-569: Published: Jun 13, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 2002.

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According to United Nations data, Cambodia has received more than $3 billion in assistance since 1993. Although Cambodia has achieved relative peace and stability, continued widespread corruption and a weak judicial system undermine efforts to reduce poverty and foster economic growth. Since 1993, the United States has provided Cambodia with over $200 million to reduce poverty and foster economic growth. This assistance has included programs to strengthen democracy, improve education and health care, and address problems posed by land mines. To address weaknesses in Cambodia's economic, social, and legal foundations, the Cambodian government and international donors of financial and technical assistance have established goals for strengthening governance in seven areas: increasing government revenue and strengthening budget management; creating a smaller, more professional military; providing Cambodian citizens with legal titles to land; developing Cambodia's weak legal framework and establishing an independent and competent judiciary; reducing risks in corrupt activities in the public sector and making public officials more accountable for their behavior; restructuring the civil service so that it can effectively provide services such as health care, primary education, and licenses to begin businesses; and preserving Cambodia's forests to ensure continued government revenue from commercial logging fees. Although the Cambodian government has achieved some of its goals in three areas of governance--public finance, military reform, and land management--it has yet to make progress in four other areas--legal and judicial reform, public administration, corruption, and forestry management. The government has increased revenue from nine percent of gross domestic product to 12.5 percent since 1999 and intensified its management of funds so that the ministries of Health and of Education, Youth, and Sports have more money available to serve the public. The government has discharged 16,500 soldiers. The government and two donor countries have prepared maps of Phnom Penh and five provinces and issued approximately 2,000 land titles to Cambodians. In contrast, the government has yet to finalize its strategy detailing the actions it will take to increase the independence or competence of the judiciary. Legislation that defines and provides specific penalties for engaging in corrupt activities has not been passed. Civil servants have not been selected or trained to carry out priority reforms that senior government officials believe must be done quickly. The government has not fully implemented its forestry monitoring project to detect and track illegal logging.

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