The government spent less money on education salaries last year than in 2002, according to provisional 2003 budget implementation figures from the Ministry of Finance.
Though the 2003 budget law allocated $536,250 for education salaries, figures show that $379,750 of that, or about 71 percent, was actually spent. In 2002, figures show, the government spent $389,500 on education salaries.
Teachers have long fought for an increase in their salaries, which linger around $25 per month, but to little avail. In its 2003 Human Development Report, the UN said “teacher wages have progressively eroded” here and compared Cambodia’s education system to Sierra Leone, Zambia and Burma.
On Monday, Phok Than, Funcinpec secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, blamed the CPP for the ministry’s cash flow problems.
The CPP “does not respect the budget approved by the National Assembly,” he said. “If we don’t have the money to implement programs, the quality suffers.”
Phok Than, who also chairs the education finance committee, said he met about four times last year with officials from the Ministry of Finance urging them to release money to his ministry on time.
“Each time, they promised to do it, saying that the check was in the mail,” the secretary of state said. “But when the meeting is over, nothing happens.”
“They say there is no money,” he added, “but Finance and Interior ministries always overspend their allocated budgets. It’s very bad for the country.”
Im Sethy, the CPP secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, could not be reached for comment Monday.
The Ministry of Education, which has been deemed a priority and has the largest budget of any ministry, spent about 79 percent of the money allocated to it in the 2003 budget law, figures show. The Interior Ministry spent 167 percent of its 2003 allocated budget, the figures show. The Finance Ministry spent about 199 percent.
Ly Sathek, director of the finance department at the Ministry of Education and a CPP member, said he didn’t know why his ministry spent less than other ministries. He added that the ministry has had “a little difficulty” in paying teachers, saying that all of the teachers’ salaries for January have still not been paid.
Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, said Monday that “teachers cannot fulfill their jobs because of the low salary.”
Also, he said, since the death of union leader Chea Vichea teachers and other civil servants have been afraid to protest over low salaries and late payments.
“It’s not only education that has trouble getting money,” he said.