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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The money-go-round

The money-go-round

The Editor,,

I profess I am not an economist so could someone please

enlighten me as to what factors and criteria determine the poor rate of pay for

locally recruited personnel.

Even when allowance is made for the dire

state of the economy it is ethically and politically difficult to account for

the vast discrepancy that exists between this low level of income and the huge

expenses on rent and other items serving less than collective

ends.

Rented villas generate thousands of dollars for their owners each

month, which is fine (I would probably have no cause to complain if I were the

owner in question). What I find rather sad is that a massive volume of money in

public income tax from the West should be so unjustly and wasterfully spent with

little regard to the net social and economic repercussions in Cambodia. Many of

the properties rented out were formerly state assets before they were

appropriated by powerful officials and their relatives in pre-UNTAC times, as

the state decided to part with the last vestiges of socialism. Other properties

were seized from less well-connected citizens more or less arbitrarily. With

this accumulated fortune, the nouveau riche are in an ever stronger position to

expand their economic base to the detriment of the rest of society. A new cycle

of power, abuse and enslavement is promoted with the asistance and knowledge of

people working under the umbrella of humanitarianism and international

co-operation.

It is ironic that these new land lords were precisely those

who, along with their Vietnamese advisors, contributed in no small part to the

isolation of the country throughout the 1980s with their siege mentality and

ideological hostility to "the nature and scope of activity" of the "subversive

and feared" agencies, otherwise known as aid organisations, just at a time when

international sympathy toward the suffering of the Cambodian people was at its

peak and international assistance critically needed.

Whilst most local

people are grateful that they are employed at all it is worth bearing in mind

that there may be only one bread-winner in a usually extended family, and they

may have been driven from the village by famine or sickness. On the other hand,

it is doubtful if helping the rich will make the poor better off as a

consequence. The emergence of new patterns of social disparities in this tragic

land is not an accident. The rich will go on spending their money on luxury

goods and other status symbol items, depositing it in safe foreign accounts

leaving the poor to go on being poor.

A recipient country will only

benefit when what it receives are not merely well meant, but well thought out

and well delivered.

- Marith Pen, England.

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