Progress and Challenges of Deconcentration in Cambodia: The Case of Urban Solid Waste Management
Rapid population expansion and urbanisation resultant of economic growth have greatly increased waste generation and associated public health issues. In light of these challenges, the Ministry of Environment jointly with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Economy and Finance issued in 2015 the inter-ministerial prakas on the Usage of Environmental Sanitation Service Fund with an initial amount of USD5 million allocated between 26 municipalities across the country. The allocation set the stage for the transfer of the solid waste management function to municipal and district administrations established by the subsequent Sub-Decree on Urban Solid Waste Management. This study is limited to solid waste management at the municipal level. More broadly, the transfer of various functions from line ministries to municipal and district administrations represents a new phase of decentralisation reform with an emphasis on the long-awaited deconcentration. Based on a case study of urban solid waste management, this paper is an early attempt to assess the progress and challenges of deconcentration. It concludes that the functional transfer has helped empower municipal administrations to provide solid waste services by giving them greater responsibilities and the necessary rights and fiscal resources, though reassignment of personnel is not part of the transfer. The functional transfer effectively shifts the mandate for solid waste management from the provincial level down to the municipal level accompanied by a ministry-granted fund that is increased on an annual basis, something provincial authorities did not have prior to the transfer. The fund is sizeable but more is needed if the service is to be developed further. Municipal administrations’ power to raise local revenue through waste collection fees in the foreseeable future could strengthen the fiscal base. Local revenue generation has long been sought by subnational administrations and its full realisation would represent a significant step forward for decentralisation reform. The case study suggests that municipal administrations have not experienced major obstacles in implementing the function so far although there are specific challenges related to interactions between provincial departments and municipal administrations, increased workload and service provider selection. In general terms, the case study suggests that greater rights, responsibilities and fiscal resources can be expected to strengthen the role of municipal administrations in local development and promote their relevance in local accountability. The prospects, however, will be negated if centralising tendencies do not simultaneously subside.