The government is set to implement a fourth round of cash payments to poor and vulnerable people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with disbursements to be made during January to March of next year from a $200 million reserve fund.
During his address to the nation on December 15, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the second phase of the third round of Covid-relief payments would conclude at the end of this year. But as the situation had yet to subside, the government decided to extend the programme for another three months.
“The Cambodian government has never ignored our poor people. Please remember that we do not leave anyone to starve,” he said.
The government first launched the cash-handout programme on June 25 through the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, distributing nearly 95 billion riel ($23 million) to 538,380 impoverished families, followed by 106 billion riel (nearly $26 million) to 598,512 families in July.
In a second round of subsidies enacted in August, the government provided almost 115 billion riel ($28 million) to 644,665 families. In September, payments eclipsed 118 billion riel ($28.8 million) to 661,684 families.
The third round began in October, with 120 billion riel ($29.3 million) given to 674,146 families. And in November, government support rose again to nearly 126 billion riel ($30.7 million) for 703,592 families.
“According to figures by social affairs minister Vong Sauth, the total budget since the beginning of the programme has exceeded 674 billion riel, or roughly $165 million,” Hun Sen said.
The prime minister challenged detractors of the government’s policies to come forward and acknowledge the work being done. People in need of assistance can hold out hope as payments will continue, he said, and if the situation has not improved by March, the government will be prepared to act further.
Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun lauded the continuation of subsidies and support programmes for the poor and those whose livelihoods had been impacted by Covid-19. People living near or below the poverty line face the most serious problems, he said.
“I think this is a good policy. It’s important for the government to take action to help them. For the poorest, it’s a matter of survival. It’s good to see the government continuing work to address their livelihoods,” he said.
Chanroeun requested, however, that the cash payments be made in a transparent, accountable and equitable manner so as to prevent discrimination against people with sensitive political affiliations or any other improprieties.