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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen promises salary raises for civil servants

Hun Sen promises salary raises for civil servants

090109_04.jpg
090109_04.jpg

Monthly wages to be raised 20 percent, but others warn that an economic downturn could keep salaries low

Photo by: Heng chivoan

Hun Sen speaks at the opening of the Stung Meanchey Bridge on Tuesday.

CIVIL servants can expect monthly salary increases of 20 percent beginning this month, Prime Minister Hun Sun said this week, amid concerns that workers are not making enough money to survive the rising cost of living.

"All civil servants at the end of [January] will receive an additional 20 percent in salary," Hun Sen said Tuesday at the inauguration of the new Stung Meanchey Bridge in Phnom Penh.

"For example, some who made 400,000 riels (US$97.78) per month in December last year will make 480,000 riels at the end of January," he added.

Hun Sen added that future salary rises could go up to 30 percent, depending on the state of the economy.

"If the economy runs well, I will jump higher," Hun Sen said.

"It is not good to promote [workers] without offering money. Salaries will increase every year. And when they increase, they will never go back down," he said.

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Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said that civil servants do not care about the percentage, only that they are paid enough salary to support their families.

"We do not focus on the quantity of salaries, but whether a civil servant can live or not," he said, adding that corruption allows government officials to live well above the level of the average civil servant.

Sok Sina, an independent economist, said recent predictions by the International Monetary Fund and other foreign financial organisations of five percent or less economic growth in 2009 could make any salary rise impossible this year.

"It is a difficult time to increase salaries, in my opinion," he said.

"If we think in terms of productivity, normally salaries do not increase unless productivity does too. Otherwise, there would be an imbalance," he added.

He said that if the promotions were pushed ahead, despite low productivity and a more general economic slowdown, the resulting imbalance could see inflation  rates - which have eased recently from highs of near 25 percent - spike.

Sok Sina said a 20 percent increase in salary for civil servants was an important step, but added that their salaries were already so low that such a rise was not enough to make a substantial difference in their standard of living.

Most civil servants make between $25 and $30 per month, making graft a common way of supplementing  incomes.

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