Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday asked citizens and investors to trust that the government will overcome the challenges brought about by Covid-19 and the loss of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.
Speaking to reporters at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen asked that citizens have confidence in the government, which has drafted a four-point plan to navigate the crisis.
“I would like to call on all countrymen, investors, business people and workers to keep calm and believe in the government. We continue work as usual despite these challenges and are trying our best to implement all the measures laid out by the government responsibly.
“Please try your best to love and help one another in these difficult times, to keep the love for the motherland burning, face every problem head-on, and believe that Cambodia will be stronger than before after overcoming these problems.
“We continue to believe that the country has a bright future because of the peace that we have achieved after so many sacrifices,” the prime minister said.
Hun Sen said Covid-19 and the partial loss of the EBA deal will particularly affect the garment and tourism sectors.
A small number of factories, he said, are likely to lay off employees in the coming weeks as they run out of raw materials – which come mostly from China – and are forced to shut down temporarily.
To face these issues, he said, the government has drafted a four-point strategy. First, it is considering a six-month tax moratorium for the worst-hit factories. The Ministry of Economy and Finance has been charged with deciding if and how the moratorium will be granted.
The second and third points only concern factories that shut down their operations in the upcoming weeks due to a lack of raw materials. These factories will not be required to contribute to the National Social Security Fund while closed.
Likewise, these factories will have to pay workers only 40 per cent of the minimum wage, which now stands at $190. The government will pay workers 20 per cent of the minimum wage.
“In short, each worker will receive about 60 per cent of the minimum wages, amounting to $120,” he said.
To help laid-off workers, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training will organise training courses to help them find work to supplement their income through the National Employment Agency.
Hun Sen said the ministry will also train these workers on different soft and technical skills so that they can access new employment opportunities.
Finally, the ministry will work closely with the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia to disseminate information on the progress achieved in improving labour conditions in local factories.
“Cambodia has chosen a path and is determined to continue walking it. We will not exchange our sovereignty for restoring the 20 per cent of the EBA deal that we have lost,” Hun Sen said.
Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina applauded the government’s plan to guarantee a minimum income for suspended workers.
“This is a good measure that will help a lot of workers,” he said.
President of the Royal Academy of Cambodia Sok Touch said Cambodia has overcome greater challenges, including rebuilding the country after the Khmer Rouge.
“We faced many difficulties. We had nothing, not even the EBA, but we continued walking. So now we have to continue moving forward. The government has a plan to overcome these difficulties,” he said.