PM Declares Small Raise for Civil Servants

Prime Minister Hun Sen an­nounced Monday he would offer a 10 percent raise to both working and retired government employees.

“I have wanted to give a raise since April, but the IMF asked us to think about whether it would affect other projects,” Hun Sen said at a road construction ceremony in Kompong Cham pro­vince. “Finally, we have concluded that it is possible to give a 10 percent raise.

“It is a small raise, but it is better than nothing,” Hun Sen said. Most of the civil servants would probably agree. Teachers, for instance, are now paid $7.70 to $25.60 a month, and want a raise to $102.40.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the National Assembly the estimated 54 billion riel (approximately $13.85 million) needed to pay for the raises would come out of Cambodia’s reserve fund.

Asked for his reaction, IMF country representative Mario de Zamaroczy replied: “It is an interesting topic, but I don’t have any comment at this stage.”

The raise, which is scheduled to take effect Jan 1, is seen as a reaction to the teacher’s union threatening a Feb 1 strike and asking other civil servants to join them.

Rong Chhun, chairman of the Cambodian Independent Teach­er’s Association (CITA), called the proposed raise “very, very little. It does not balance with the cost of goods in markets.”

Not everyone was dissatisfied. A Ministry of Health physician, who was on duty to provide medical attention to any sick National Assembly members, smiled after hearing the Finance Minister’s announcement, but called the new raise “critically deficient.”

His monthly salary is a little more than $13, so his raise would amount to about $1.30. “Very little for us to live on,” he said.

Opposition leader Sam Rain­sy presented his own three-page economic assessment with de­tailed figures, and spent nearly one hour decrying the huge loss of state revenues to corruption.

Sam Rainsy spoke of alleged corruption and questionable business deals as large as Sokimex’s ticket deal at Angkor Wat and as small as the wife of Commerce Minister Cham Prasith being listed as the household cook.

He said if ghost employees are cut off the payroll, the number of civil service employees will drop from 310,000 to 280,000.

Cham Prasith estimated that if corruption were cleaned up, the government could afford to give $25 monthly raises to employees every year for the next three years.

Keat Chhon agreed that corruption is a huge problem, but used logging as an example of the government fighting corruption step by step.

“I understand about Keat Chhon,” Sam Rainsy said. “He is doing a very difficult job, because he has not the power to do whatever he wants. He is under the corrupt, higher government leaders in the ruling party.”



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