Prime Minister Hun Sen has rejected an appeal by labor unions for the government to reduce the prices of goods, which they say have outstripped prevailing wages.
In a letter January 9, Hun Sen said the government is currently subsidizing the country’s rice mills, spending $6 million between 2005 and 2007, and had already sought an increase in the minimum wage.
Hun Sen also said that the high price of gasoline in Cambodia was the result of high prices globally, while the value of the US dollar has decreased recently. The government, he added, had been forced to stop the import of cheap chickens and pigs from neighboring countries because of concerns over bird flu and foot and mouth disease. Prices were also rising due to factors such as increased demand from the rising number of tourists to Cambodia.
However, Hun Sen said that he believed the price of foodstuffs had now stabilized as prices typically decline in the fourth quarter of every year.
“Our workers earn approximately $72 per month and monthly expenses are around $30,” Hun Sen wrote. “I understand this is suitable for workers’ living,” he added in his response letter to the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, which comprises the Free Trade Union and Cambodian Independent Teachers Association.
In their Nov 11 letter to the premier, the CCU said salaries of $50 and $40 per month for garment workers and teachers were not enough to live “in a dignified way” given current prices.
CITA President Rong Chhun on Friday thanked Hun Sen for the reply but said it was not satisfactory.
“It is not enough. This is just a clarification,” he said. “He didn’t resolve the problem.”
Though wages have increased, they had not kept pace with rising prices, meaning living standards had actually decreased, Rong Chhun claimed.
FTU President Chea Mony said the premier’s reply was pre-election posturing and said wage increases were the result of union activism.
“The government can control market prices,” he added.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy issued a statement January 11 disputing Hun Sen’s argument, and saying that the true causes of inflation included commercial monopolies due to corruption, high gasoline taxes and the informal pegging of the Khmer riel to a depreciating US dollar.
Sam Rainsy also accused the National Bank of Cambodia of printing bank notes in an uncontrolled fashion to fund vote buying by the CPP.
NBC Director-General Tal Nay Im dismissed Sam Rainsy’s accusation January 11.
“No one prints money for a political party,” she said, adding that bank note printing was subject to monitoring by the International Monetary Fund. “Nobody would be so disorderly,” she said.