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Poverty subsidy extended

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A woman carries her child in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Hean Rangsey

Poverty subsidy extended

Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth has extended the implementation of the Cash Assistance Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Families During the Battle of Covid-19 to August and September.

Further extensions will be determined separately in the fourth week of each month based on situation developments.

The second round of the cash assistance programme which is dispensed through the Wing money transfer service will require a national budget of $30 million for more than 2.6 million people in August.

The budget grew from $26 million in July and $23 million in June, due to an increase of 60,000 newly identified poor households.

Ministry spokesman Meas Sok Sensan said on Tuesday that the government would spend between $25 million and $28 million each month to provide for the poor and vulnerable. “There is no shortage of funds for this programme. We have already allocated the money,” he said.

Ministry of Planning spokesman Srey Da told The Post that subsidies to poor and vulnerable families during the programme’s first round in June and July achieved about 97 per cent success from a total population of 613,000 families, equivalent to about 2,480,000 people.

Da said the ministry has since found an additional 56,000 poor and vulnerable families, equal to about 280,000 people.

The total number of poor and vulnerable families nationwide, he said, is about 669,000 families or about 2.7 million people.

“In the second round, the ministry observed that the number of poor families did not decrease as migrant families returned home to apply for equity cards. Other vulnerable families fell into poverty during the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.

However, Da said his ministry had observed irregularities because some families which had better living conditions were jealous of the subsidy and also applied for it.

This added to the burden placed on local authorities and working groups of provincial planning departments who were forced to identify real poor families as well as remove those who were better off.

“As a precautionary measure against the increase and irregularities, the ministry has instructed the capital, provincial and municipal planning departments throughout the country to conduct inspections at the local level.

“In particular, they must cooperate closely with the commune council and ask for guidelines from the provincial governor to have a solution if problems are encountered,” Da said.

The Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability executive director Him Yun said the IDPoor cards are provided to poor people, but some well-off families also have the card. He said higher authorities should issue warnings or take other measures to prevent such fraud.

“If the authorities cannot prevent it, they are responsible according to the law,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the launch of the cash subsidy programme in June and made it clear the work is almost entirely dependent on local authorities.

He said it must be done most clearly and thoroughly and avoid scams like families and relatives who are not poor or vulnerable receiving the allowance.

“I will take immediate action and there will be no exceptions if abnormalities are found in any village, commune or district,” Hun Sen said.

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