Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth urged all stakeholders to work together to support an effective social protection system, as the finance ministry celebrated Social Protection Week 2023 (SPW) in Phnom Penh this week.

The finance ministry is hosting the three-day SPW in Phnom Penh from February 13-15. The event is a forum for all stakeholders to discuss the development of the social protection system.

“This forum aims to lay out a strategic roadmap for the development of social protection policy, the development of the social security system in Cambodia, the development of national social assistance programmes and the strengthening of social protection mechanisms for transparency and accountability,” said the ministry.

Pornmoniroth, also chairman of the National Social Protection Council (NSPC), addressed the opening ceremony of the forum and told the assembled guests that this year’s goal was to strengthen the efficiency and transparency of exiting social protection systems.

“This year’s goal shows the close attention that the government pays to the process of managing and administering each programme, as well as the social security fund,” he said.

“The principle of strengthening efficiency and transparency is important to ensure that both the state budget and the contributions paid by employers and workers are used in a targeted manner and not wasted,” he added.

He encouraged all stakeholders and development partners to continue to support the implementation of the programmes, and to work together to address any shortcomings.

“This is part of building a harmonious society. It serves as a foundation for supporting and developing the country to become strong, sustainable, equitable and environmentally friendly and will help Cambodian society to achieve important development goals,” he said.

In 2023, the government plans to spend about $465 million on cash assistance programmes for poor and vulnerable people and families. The NSPC is preparing to update the national social protection policy framework for 2016-2025, by focusing on several key components.

“These components include considering the expansion of scope of social assistance, institutionalising emergency response mechanisms, digitising implementation procedures, strengthening our monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and improving the way we communicate with the public, and other institutions,” said Pornmoniroth.

Chan Narith, under-secretary of state at the ministry and secretary-general of the NSPC, said the government has established many programmes to protect the poor and vulnerable.

They include cash assistance for pregnant women, new mothers and the disabled, as well as community-based school meal programmes and scholarships.

“In terms of social security, we also established pensions, healthcare and occupational risk for civil servants, former civil servants and veterans – and these three security funds are now available to individuals in the private sector,” he said.

“Cambodia has set up funds for citizens holding ID poor cards and other target groups. In addition to these programmes, special cash assistance programmes were made available to more than 700,000 poor and vulnerable households during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

In December 2022, the government launched two additional special social assistance intervention programmes, including cash assistance vulnerable families during periods of inflationary pressure or flooding, according to Narith.

Joseph Scheuer, UN resident coordinator, who attended the event, said the UN supports the expansion of social protection coverage to any members of society who are not yet covered.

“Our support to the government in this area includes: development of a strategy for progressive formalisation of informal employment, design and eventual introduction of the Family Package Scheme, graduation based social protection and the formulation and introduction of a shock-responsive social protection framework,” he added.

He agreed that there was a need to improve the accountability and transparency of the social protection system through the development of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, as it was essential to deepen the public’s trust and enhance the social contract between the state and its people.

“I am pleased to reaffirm our commitment to continued support for an integrated, transparent and accountable social protection system including through the new UN Cooperation Framework for the period 2024-2028,” he said.