The streets may soon get dirtier after Phnom Penh’s garbage collection company announced Friday it will drastically cut its staff because many residents have not paid their bills.
“We cannot afford to pay [the employees],” Pascal Patrice, Cintri (Cambodia) Ltd’s operations manager, told reporters. “It is a great sadness that we announced to stop all street cleaning activities and reduce the frequency of the rubbish collection.”
After 14 months of operation, Cintri has decided to lay off 400 of its 900 street cleaners. The company is on the verge of joining eight other garbage collection firms that have closed their doors in the past 10 years because they were unable to collect fees from Phnom Penh residents.
Last year, Cintri invested $6 million after signing a 47-year contract with the city. So far, Patrice said, the company has lost $2.5 million on the venture. Its parent company, Sintec, has injected more than $100,000 per month in order to pay Cintri’s operating costs.
“After more than a year, we see no amelioration of the situation,” Patrice said. “In fact, we see the situation degrading.”
Cintri and the municipality agreed to lower garbage collecting fees to encourage residents to pay their bills, but it has not worked. Some businesses, Patrice said, have not paid their invoices since August 2002.
“If you do not pay the bill for [electricity], water supply or mobile phone, they will stop the service,” Patrice said. “It is therefore the same rule that applies for city cleaning and waste collection services.”
Cintri also has not reaped benefits from a deal with Electricite du Cambodge to include the garbage collecting fee on the electricity bill, since most residents pay their electricity bills. In return for the co-billing, Cintri agreed to give four percent of its revenue to the electric company.
But still Cintri has received less than a quarter of the $170,000 it would receive every month if Phnom Penh residents paid their bills.
In the first 15 days of this month, Cintri collected just $3,700 in bill payments through EdC.
The reduced services will begin on Oct 27. The city’s garbage will be collected twice per week in all districts and employees will not receive overtime payments, Patrice said. Street cleaning is suspended.
In May, trash collectors went on strike after Cintri withheld salaries because some employees were suspected of stealing gasoline. Workers signed papers promising not to steal gasoline in exchange for receiving overtime payment for working national holidays.
The municipality apparently had no prior knowledge that Cintri would cut its services.
“I only know what you just told me,” Sok Leakhena, the municipality’s deputy cabinet chief, told a reporter Friday.