Ruling party lawmakers yesterday rejected an opposition draft law that would have instituted a $250 monthly minimum wage for civil servants and a $150 monthly wage for garment workers, saying the law would have endangered Cambodia’s free-market economy.
The decision came just one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in a speech his own competing plan to increase salaries according to yearly economic growth.
“Based on this proposal, this law doesn’t align with the facts in the Kingdom of Cambodia, because Cambodia has a free-market regime, so putting limits on salary or wages, it is contrary to this condition,” said ruling-party lawmaker Sman Teath, vice chairman of the National Assembly’s finance committee. “Therefore, we cannot limit it.”
Teath also maintained that both factory workers and civil servants must be paid according to their experience and skill level, something that he said would preclude a minimum wage for either.
However, Teath went on, lawmakers would be moving to draft a law codifying Hun Sen’s Tuesday proposal to link yearly pay raises for civil servants and other workers to economic growth.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, who filed the draft law in late February, called its rejection “discrimination” against the opposition, and accused the CPP of being politically motivated.
The opposition has long argued that the proposed pay raises could easily be financed through stricter tax enforcement and eradicating corruption, something they maintain the law would contribute to itself.
Yesterday, Chhay expressed dismay at past CPP assertions that to institute a pay raise, Cambodia would have to print more money.
“I have explained that a policy to print more money to increase salaries is completely wrong ... We demand that the government try harder to collect our national revenue, of which at least $1.3 to $1.5 billion is being lost per year,” he said, adding that $1 million in uncollected customs tax is lost every day.
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, agreed that draft law should have been passed, and could have even proved beneficial to the CPP.
“It would be better if parliament agreed to approve this draft law, because the election is nearly here, and people would be attracted to any party that they see cares” about people, he said.