Country Report Cambodia February 2010

Economic policy: Salary supplements to civil servants are cancelled

The government has issued a sub-decree banning NGOs from paying salary supplements and other incentives to government employees, many of whom earn US$100 or less per month. According to the information minister, Khieu Kanharith, the salary supplements were not distributed evenly by NGOs and were responsible for causing "bad feelings in the workplace". The sub-decree, which was pushed through on January 1st, also imposed a one-year freeze on civil service salaries and promotions, in a move that the government said was necessary to keep costs under control. There have been calls for the government explain its reasoning more clearly. In a letter sent to the Ministry of Health on December 21st, the World Health Organisation's acting representative to Cambodia, Michel Thieren, said that the cuts might prompt civil servants to supplement their salaries by demanding informal fees (that is to say bribes) for basic services, thus inflicting more suffering on poor Cambodians. Meanwhile, there has also been speculation that the government is attempting to limit NGO involvement to ensure that low-level civil servants have no loyalties to outside organisations.

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