Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday asked Finance Minister Keat Chhon to review the national budget to determine how much money is available to raise family allowances for government employees, according to a Friday Council of Ministers press release.
Ngo Hongly, the secretary-general of the government’s Council for Administrative Reform, said that government employees currently receive 3,000 riel a month for their spouses and 2,500 riel for each child. He said Hun Sen hoped to increase those allowances as part of an ongoing effort to raise government salaries.
The amount of the raise will be determined once a budget analysis is done, Ngo Hongly said.
SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said the gesture was geared toward July’s national elections. “The raise is to win popularity and votes from government servants,” he said.
But even if tripled, family allowances would remain too low to live on, he said. “Their salary is not enough to buy even bran,” he said. Bran is usually mixed with banana tree scraps to feed pigs.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said talk of a family allowance increase—which Hun Sen also brought up in a speech Thursday—had nothing to do with the election.
He said it was prompted by a proposal from civil servants in rural areas, where, unlike in urban areas, it is unusual for both husband and wife to work for the government.
Family allowances for civil servants have not been increased since 1987, Khieu Kanharith said, adding that the government currently spends $7 million a year on the program.
“The government has the right to raise salaries at any time and as much as it can afford,” he said.