Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen at the Closing of the National Conference on Reforms of Decentralization and De-concentration: “Lessons Learned, Challenges, and Visions” [Unofficial Translation]


In addition to the prepared speech, Samdech Techo Made the following comments that are unofficially selected and translated by the CNV team:

Implement the Law, Not Wait for Order

I should make a point here. It should also be our appeal as well as advice. I have raised this issue relating to delegation of power and/or transference of functions several times. The issue here is whether the chief of each institution is willingly and voluntarily to fulfill the jobs or not. I have said earlier that process of delegation of power, transference of functions, and resources is still slow. It may be because of limited capacity of our human resource at the sub-national level. What I wish to pinpoint here is that I wish to see nothing but your action to implement the law. I have noticed that some institutions or sub-national authorities have not yet fulfilled the laws. They are after the orders. Take for instance, we still have issues that so and so institutions are not fulfilling their tasks but waiting for orders from the Prime Minister. In that case, why was it necessary to establish institutions and/or judicial framework for institutions? Let me urge you chief of institutions once again that reforms to take place in the forthcoming sixth legislative term of the National Assembly will see that this is a precondition to review which institution is or is not making steps forwards, or minister is or is not able to fulfill his/her tasks.

… While holding everything at the central level, and the sub-national administrations are not taking parts in the implementation, things like the non-standard modified trucks would happen. Our law allows trucks to be as long as 16 meters. In reality, some have extended longer. While this was happening, our authority were not taking action according to law but waiting for orders. They should be implementing laws […] in the 1980s, some of you may still remember, should we not delegate more power to local authority, Pol Pot would have taken back provinces. The provincial authorities then had their army, and resource ability to mend roads and fix bridges without waiting for intervention from the central level authority […]

That situation has changed. However, why is it that we cannot further delegation of power and resource? Let me clarify again that chiefs of institutions must expedite this task which is in the frameworks of decentralization and de-concentration instructed so far. You wait for no order but take legal actions. There would be no success without participation and/or allowing no chance to others to participate. It is impossible to lend your hands from Phnom Penh to resolving problems in the local level. It is true that some tasks require sovereign decision, which national level will take over. However, there are many jobs that would be more effective if the local or sub-national level authority carries out […]

Job Description and Monitoring Mechanism

I have mentioned earlier that transference of functions must be clear. There needs to have a functions and/or jobs description as which are the functions overseen by which level of authority […] I wish Samdech Krola Haom and related commissions to set up what they call monitoring bulletin […] otherwise some of you would just listen to what I had to say and would go back to repeat what you had been doing […] it should be one among other conditions when the sixth Cabinet is formed. When some ministers are not doing their jobs in the fifth term, would it be necessary to appoint him again in the sixth term? I should mention it straightly […] we may have for example monitoring mechanism/bulletin which counts so and so number of services/functions that are delegated to sub-national level authority, and so and so number of services/functions that are kept at national level […] what is more important here is to have a clearly defined functions/jobs description, with clear responsibility […]

Be Responsible for Power Delegated

… Let me reaffirm that you must take up power delegated by the national level but you should not consider it a sovereign power. You cannot do whatever as you should wish. Take for instance expenditure issue is concerned, you have administrative discretion to authorize it for the construction of roads and/or water canals. It would not be in your discretion to use it in the purchase of your luxury vehicles […] It is not discretion of the provincial governors to divert budgets reserved and delegated for building of canals, clean water, roads, schools at sub-national level to purchasing other staff for personal civilized requirements […] There was this issue I had this morning with a provincial governor that I should not mention which province it was.

In WhatsApp, I saw that he asked me for advice. I replied to him that it is provincial authority and power to take action against a company that carries out its plan without and/or against authorization. I replied to him that it is the provincial authority and power and (you have to) close it down within two hours. I then called up the company, which responded that they would suspend what they were doing. I told the company to do so in within one hour or the authority would do it within two hour later. Why dare you not take up responsibility? […] we must implement our roles and functions given by law. I gave you the sword but you never use the sword that you wanted very much […]

Sand Pumping in Koh Kong

… There is this issue in Koh Kong. I heard that there is this action of sand pumping to create a city. Who authorizes it? I asked and no one seems to know about it. What have you done? It do not know yet if it is or is not true. I just saw it in the media. There seems to be no confirmation yet. That is our job. That is our task. Institutionally, they are in the responsibility of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, and the Ministry of Environment. You may have to look into this thing to find out why on earth are they encroaching upon state land and mangrove forest? Why should they be allow to pump sand to fill in there? Everyone wants to be governor, minister, secretary of state, undersecretary of state, district governors, etc. After being appointed, they do not represent the power given. They do not help prevent such violations. The governor of Koh Kong, while there were no reactions from concerned institutions, should come out and clarify […] governor of Koh Kong is a woman but she has to take up responsibility as if she is a man in this position. They are equal in function and responsibility […]

Discretion by Projects, Not for Personal Gains

We have not been waiting for anyone to help us. We have saved up money and delegate to local level in an incremental pattern every year. According to report by Samdech Krola Haom Sar Kheng, we have so far offered some two billion USD to the three levels of sub-national authority. This year, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will disburse over 430 million USD to the three levels of sub-national authority. There are also funds channeled by central level to their local offices. However, all in all, the sub-national authority is benefiting from more because of projects of roads, water canals, bridges, etc. carried out directly by the national level. The sub-national level authority benefits from a vast amount of funding. I warn, however, of use of your discretion on the over-430 million USD provided to the three levels of sub-national authority […] Discretion must be by projects and make your expenditures rational and effective […]

Public Financial Reforms Reap Current Account Surplus

We have made stringent efforts to conduct public financial reform, which in turn we are reaping current account surplus, allowing us to increase salary for our civil servants, and channeling fund for local level functioning. We have money for basic infrastructural investments in each and every institution. We must keep up our efforts and must work together to collect incomes […] where there is no income, there will be no expense. I am so glad and accolade our public financial reform efforts […] allowing us not to wait for breathing provided by donors. We hail assistance but we must know that there will come a time when we will no longer enjoy that favorability […] I was worried that when Cambodia reaches to a stage when it is a lower-middle income nation, we would lose such credit favor or what they called “concessional loans,” and had to endure what they called “commercial loans.” I conducted negotiations with Japan, China, South Korea, and Asian Development Bank – all four, to retain chance of acceding to concessional loans […]

In fact, we have managed our public debt in a fair way. Principle ratio of our debt, which in a general term they would allow a 40% of GDP, is still at 22%, while some countries have reached even 100% of their GDP. We continue to need concessional assistance from development partners – both financially and technically. However, we must grow up to take up destiny in our own hands. Donors have heavy burdens in own countries as well as elsewhere such as Libya, Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Angola, etc. […] funding to sub-national level authorities are bigger and we still want it to be growing still wishing (1) to expand our income to promote rational expenditures to our targets, and (2) to increase national funding for sub-national level according to functions transferred. While transferring functions, we have to transfer human and financial resource […]./.