The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:03 Sam Rith and James O'Toole
PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Monday that he ended a government partnership with the World Bank on a land-titling project because it had "too many conditions".
"I would like to confirm that on Friday the plenary council session decided to end the partnership with the World Bank over the issue of land titling," the Prime Minister said during a speech in Phnom Penh, adding that the partnership "was difficult because it was complicated and had too many conditions".
The government had collaborated with the World Bank since 2002 on the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), a programme designed to provide assistance in land titling and conflict resolution to Kingdom residents, typically poorer members of rural communities. The World Bank contributed a US$24.3 million loan for the project.
Although LMAP funding was set to last until the end of this year, Hun Sen said that any future land-titling efforts will be financed exclusively by the Cambodian government, and invited World Bank officials to reclaim remaining funding.
"There is still some money remaining [for LMAP], so within the next few months, please come take it back," he said.
Bou Saroeun, a spokesman for the World Bank, said that the government informed his organisation of its decision verbally on Friday. In July, the World Bank sent a report on LMAP to the government stating that despite successes in rural areas, the project "has not proved to be an effective instrument so far in helping the Government deal with informal settlements [in land disputes]".
David Pred, director of the Bridges Across Borders rights group, attended recent meetings between the World Bank and the government to discuss LMAP. He said in an email Monday that relations broke down because of inconsistencies in the government's approach.
"A system in which the same provincial and municipal authorities who are handing out land concessions also get to decide which areas get title and which areas don't, because they are arbitrarily defined as 'state land', is clearly problematic," he said. "The state land-management component of LMAP has been an abysmal failure."