The government has announced that minimum monthly salaries for civil servants will increase to $250 by 2018, the same figure promised by the opposition ahead of July’s election.
The Cambodian People’s Party government has granted a raft of wage hikes since the poll, which according to analysts saw many public officials desert the ruling party in favour of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
According to unions, the current minimum monthly wage for a civil servant is about $125, thanks to recent raises. Before the election, government workers were paid as little as $50.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed after yesterday’s weekly cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen that wages will be gradually raised to $250 by 2018.
“We understand that in order to [guarantee] the quality and effectiveness of [government] service providers, they should receive a fair salary,” he said.
Siphan added that the move would be accompanied by unspecified financial reforms. A package of laws including the 2015 draft budget and a draft law on national finances for 2015 should be sent to parliament in the next week, he said.
In April, the World Bank questioned whether Cambodia could continue to afford public sector wage hikes without further strengthening tax collection to avoid compromising spending on social services like health and education.
According to government documents posted on Facebook by Siphan, the government’s wage bill will make up 48.6 per cent of total spending in 2015, up from 40 per cent this year and equal to 6.4 per cent of GDP. This will be afforded, in part, by removing “ghost workers” from the payroll, the document says.
The spokesman said that the government was “very confident” it could afford $250.
Siphan also denied the CPP were trying to match CNRP’s populist promises. “They just do lip service … They do not even know where the money would come from,” he said.
CNRP whip Son Chhay, who also serves as deputy head of the parliamentary commission on finance and banking, said the government’s move was “very positive”.
Chhay added that he believed $250 could be reached well before 2018 if reforms were expedited. Getting civil servants back on side was “a question of survival” for the CPP, he said.
But unions representing public workers yesterday had no praise for the government.
“Why do they have to wait until 2018?” said Rong Chhun of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association.
Cambodian Independent Civil Servant Association head Kao Poeun said: “Despite the recent raises, their salaries are still low, so they won’t provide citizens with good public services. They will still try to make money through corruption.”