The National Bank announced Tuesday that it has the money to pay January salaries to more than 300,000 civil servants and soldiers, the fastest it has been able to do so in five years.
The bank’s treasury department on Monday ran sweeping announcements on National Radio, state-run TVK and in local newspapers asking ministries to prepare paperwork to request salaries. The total figure to be paid in salaries wasn’t disclosed, but government officials estimate that there are roughly 160,000 civil servants and 150,000 soldiers.
Government economic adviser Te Duong Tara attributed the prompt action to government pressure on the treasury department and the Ministry of Finance’s tax department to become more efficient. The government is generally up to three months late on paying salaries.
“This is to tell people that the government has done a good job,” said Te Duong Tara, adding that the effort also is to improve the government’s image to Cambodia’s taxpayers and international donors.
The treasury department has already sent money to the provinces for educators and district- and commune-level officials, said Hiv Sowann, the treasury department’s deputy director.
Customs taxes alone have pumped revenues up 25 to 30 percent compared with most months, said Pen Siman, the newly appointed customs director. A 10 percent Value Added Tax also kicked in on Jan 1.
The government also won’t face some of the big bills this year that it faced in 1998 such as the 6 billion riel ($1.6 million) spent on Khmer Rouge defections and the 19 billion riel ($5.1 million) spent on elections, Hiv Sowann said.
The treasury department already is considering whether it will be able to pay February salaries on time at the end of the month, Hiv Sowann said.
If the customs department continues at this rate, government income will keep increasing and salaries will be paid faster, if not on time, Pen Siman said.
“We do not like people criticizing us by saying there are 60 days in a month,” said Pen Siman. “From now on the payments may be late 10 to 15 days after the month.”