Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia has disbursed $125 million in cash handouts over five months to municipal and provincial authorities for more than 600,000 poor and vulnerable families in target areas amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking during a formal ceremony to launch the programme on Wednesday, Hun Sen said if the government wanted to provide social assistance, it would hand out cash directly.
The cash handout will start in the next few days and more will be released next month.
“[Minister of Economy and Finance] Aun Pornmoniroth told me that $125 million has already been saved for five months and now we have disbursed it to the target areas,” he said.
The prime minister said cash will be handed out to recipients in the fourth week of each month, amounting to $25 million a month. At this stage, the government schedules payments every two months to implement the programme.
He continued that this was social assistance during the Covid-19 crisis, not a programme to support the poor permanently. He said those who can carry on their business or work should continue to do so instead of depending on state subsidies.
“The government initiated this programme to assist poor families during the pandemic. The handout will be given every two months.
“In the first round, the handout takes place once in June and once in July. The government will continue monitoring and assessing the situation and the effects of this pandemic.
“This social assistance programme will be implemented in a new round for two more months. But if the effects of Covid-19 are relieved, the government will stop this social assistance programme and divert the [remaining] money to various necessary investments to restore economic growth,” he said.
A sub-decree signed by the prime minister and seen by The Post on Wednesday said poor families in Phnom Penh and those in urban areas outside the capital classified as Level 1 and 2 will receive a cash handout of 120,000 riel ($30) a month.
Some could receive more depending on conditions such as the number of children, people with disabilities and HIV-positive families.
The Ministry of Planning said since June 1, it had identified 560,000 poor families consisting of 2.3 million people who are eligible for the cash handouts.
Hun Sen also advised officials in the capital and provinces to continue surveying citizens. He said Covid-19 could cause some families to become impoverished in the future.
Democratic Institute of Cambodia director Pa Chanroeun hailed the move, saying the government had an obligation to take measures to help guarantee citizens’ safety and wellbeing.
“The government intends this to be a quick fix. Hopefully, they have some abilities in the fight against this Covid-19,” he said.
Chanroeun said he wanted to see a transparent process of surveying poor citizens to ensure the national budget spending hits the target and is efficient for citizens.