Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN, donors worry over effect of incentive cuts

UN, donors worry over effect of incentive cuts

UN, donors worry over effect of incentive cuts

091224_03
Workers from the NGO Caritas hold a workshop in Phnom Penh with indigenous minority groups. The NGO works throughout Cambodia to improve agricultural production.

FOREIGN governments and development organisations, including the UN, have written a letter to the government expressing concern about the recent termination of salary supplement programmes for civil servants.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon wrote in a letter earlier this month that the government had decided to cancel the programmes, under which development organisations had been subsidising the salaries of civil servants in range of sectors.

In a letter dated December 17 and obtained by the Post on Wednesday, United Kingdom Ambassador Andrew Mace and Australian Ambassador Margaret Adamson joined with UN resident coordinator Douglas Broderick, World Bank country manager Qimiao Fan and Asian Development Bank country director Putu Kamayana to address the government’s decision.

The writers of the letter said they “are encouraged that the [government] recognises the critical importance of developing and putting in place an efficient civil service”, but that they were distressed by the possible implications of the supplement cuts in isolation.

In the wake of such cuts, scheduled to take effect January 1, the group said there was a “substantially increased risk that adverse humanitarian consequences will arise”, adding that development organisations are “very concerned about the impact of reductions in contracted staff levels, particularly in rural areas, and how these will affect frontline service delivery”.

The authors of the letter said they had heard that the health and education sectors “have been granted authorisation to continue contracting staff at the present levels”, though they worried about the effect of the salary supplements’ termination on other government employees who provide vital services to poor Cambodians, including those at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

In a letter dated December 4, Keat Chhon explained that the government planned to terminate salary supplements and incentive programmes “across the complete portfolio of projects and programmes irrespective of funding sources”.

The minister explained that the government sees this as a necessary step to enacting civil-service reform in the wake of the global financial crisis and to maintaining fairness in government compensation.

Mace said Wednesday that development organisations hope to meet with the government to discuss the issue further “after the New Year”.

Development officials contacted this week said the salary supplements had benefited civil servants in a variety of sectors, though they could not provide figures on the total value of the cancelled programmes.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan referred questions to officials at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, who were unavailable for comment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG AND MOM KUNTHEAR

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