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Salary hike in the making for local officials

A gathering of government officials at the Ministry of Interior yesterday approved a draft sub-decree that would see the salaries of Cambodia’s notoriously underpaid civil servants boosted by up to 60 per cent in some cases.

According to the sub-decree, starting in January 2015, a commune chief will get 400,000 riel (about $100) per month, up from 300,000 riel; first and second deputy commune chiefs will get 350,000 riel, up from 240,000; commune councillors will get 300,000 riel , up from 200,000; and village chiefs will get 160,000 riel, a 60 per cent increase from their current salary of 100,000.

“The above payment will be implemented from January 2015, and will only be for the officers in those positions,” the sub-decree reads.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng – who is also director of the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development (NCDD) – presided over the meeting, telling attendees that the draft sub-decree “will be sent to the government for approval soon”.

“The government does not allow low and high [ranking] officers to have a large gap between their salaries,” Kheng said.

Moek Chea, first deputy chief of Kandal province’s Koki Thom commune, said he was happy with the salary bump, but also noted that the salary was still not enough for a local official to live on alone.
“Such an amount of wages does not feed my wife and children. I farm and grow crops for sale to support my daily livelihood,” he said.

In his remarks yesterday, Kheng also alluded to vague “irregularities” in the disbursement of government funds at the local level and called on sub-federal civil servants to take action to ensure that the funds were spent appropriately.

Chea said that he had noticed such irregularities in his own commune.

Citing the example of a road that cost some $3,300 less than projected to build, he wondered aloud what had happened to the funds that were allocated but not spent.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last month announced similar pay rises in the education sector, with some 110,000 education officers being bumped up to 500,000 riel (about $125) as of this month, with an additional 50,000-riel bump to come in April.

Another 50,000 low-level teachers were promised a 14 per cent bump to 550,000 riel starting this month, with a further bump to 640,000 in April.

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