The government has spent nearly $20 million during the first phase of a three-phase programme to help vulnerable households suffering from inflationary pressures and severe flooding.

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation urges officials to strengthen the monitoring of payments and prevent irregularities in releasing assistance during the next two phases.

In December 2022, the government announced a new dual cash transfer programme intended to help poor households affected by floods and those most vulnerable to inflationary pressures. Each household was budgeted to receive cash assistance of 100,000 riel ($25).

According to the government sub-decree, the affected families who have been identified by the Ministry of Planning will receive cash assistance under this scheme three times, the first of which is for the most vulnerable households during inflationary pressures on December 10, 2022. The second payment will be on April 10, 2023 and the third on July 10, 2023.

The cash assistance programme for vulnerable households affected by floods will be paid out on the 10th of December, January and February.

Chhour Sopanha, director-general of the National Social Assistance Fund (NSAF), said at a meeting to review the results of the first round of implementation of the subsidy programme on January 10 that the government has spent nearly $20 million to provide help to nearly 360,000 affected households.

“For implementing our two programmes in the first scheme, the cash assistance during the inflationary pressures is about $9.12 million paid to a total of 260,526 households. The implementation of the cash assistance programme for vulnerable families affected by the floods in the 16 provincial capitals is about $9.30 million and has a total of nearly 990,169 households,” he said.

Social affairs minister Vong Soth said the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and geopolitical tensions had led to an increase in the price of goods and food in the market, which has affected the livelihoods of people in poor families who live near the poverty line.

At the end of 2022, he said people in parts of 16 towns and provinces were severely affected by flooding with damage to houses, crops and local infrastructure, while also causing a great impact on the daily lives of people, especially vulnerable families.

Therefore, in response to this difficult situation, the government of Cambodia has launched two more cash assistance programmes in order to mitigate the hardships of families living near the poverty line with vulnerable family members.

With the implementation of this policy, Soth also instructed the competent officials to strengthen the system to monitor and prevent irregularities with the programme implementation officers in some communes and to raise awareness among local people to avoid anger and loss of public confidence in participating in the programme.

“I would like to highlight to the meeting some key issues that need to be addressed and implemented on a regular and timely basis in order to ensure the implementation of the programme at the local level with transparency and efficiency.

“There are some irregularities that I would like to point out, especially our practice so that we can improve because we still have the second and third cash assistance releases to make our process even better,” he said.

Soth also instructed the relevant officials to continue to strengthen capacity and provide technical support to communes so that the communes can perform their roles and responsibilities correctly to ensure the implementation of the programme is done smoothly in accordance with the set plans and expected results.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, once said that the implementation of the programme was a good thing to ease the difficulties of people in troubled times. But he stressed that on behalf of civil society organisations, he wanted to see these subsidies paid out transparently and without discrimination.

“When people suffer similarly, they must receive the same payment, because they are also Cambodian people and they live under the same roof with the same government, regardless of their political affiliations,” he said.

To date, the government has spent a total of $900 million to provide vulnerable people assistance within the framework of the national social protection policy since 2016, including people affected by Covid-19. The cash assistance has benefited about three million people, according to Sopanha.