Friday, 31 October 2008

In Cambodia, the Salaries Do Not Correspond to the Size of Property Owned by Civil Servants - Thursday, 30.10.2008

Posted on 30 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 584

- As 31 October 2008 is a National Holiday, commemorating the Royal Birthday of H.M King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, our next publication will be only for 1 November 2008.
- As I am traveling from 31 October to 10 November to Egypt in my responsibilities with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – ICANN – the global Internet coordination - some of our publications may be delayed, depending on my travel schedule and the time zone differences between Cambodia and Egypt.

Norbert Klein, Editor

“The table of salary scales for members of the Royal Government was adopted on 30 September 2004, and it is supposed to be in force until the present. The salaries for the prime minister and for under-secretaries of state, including other related expenses, are between US$400 and US$900; that means, a prime minister receives more than US$900, followed by deputy prime ministers and ministers, who receive smaller salaries, down to under-secretaries of states who receive approximately US$400. Advisors to the prime minister or to deputy prime ministers have the same salary table, depending on their positions. As for low-ranking officials, they still receive smaller salaries – approximately US$30 as an average. Mr. Cheam Yeap, the chairperson of the Commission of Economy and Finance of the National Assembly, said that every year, the government spends nearly US$1 billion to cover salaries.

“Salaries are very important for low-ranking officials, for police or soldiers holding low ranks, and for teachers. Sometimes, they anxiously wait for the end of each month to approach, so that they receive their next salary - although it is small. However, for high-ranking officials, their salaries are just symbols. They do not even talk about their salaries, and it is true that they do not wait for their salaries. Where is the source of their big properties? This question is asked all the time, but everyone knows the answer without thinking. Mr. Thun Saray, the president of Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC, said without surprise, ‘In our country, when an opportunity comes, high-ranking officials seek bribes for their own interests, and then they share part of it with their higher-ranking officials, in order to maintain their positions. This habit has become a culture.’ He thinks that the present Khmer society evaluates people according to the property they own. He added that when people have money, the public considers them to be valuable. He went on to say, ‘On the contrary, the poor are not esteemed to be valuable, although they may be honest, have good morals, and may have a high education.’

“In Cambodia, one can clearly see the big gap between the salaries in the salary tables, and the property owned by high-ranking officials of the government. Considering their salaries, they cannot afford to buy [Toyota] Land Cruisers, villas, and land, as their salaries could not cover these their everyday expenses like this. The general public, and particularly the opposition parties, always criticize that the sources for such properties of those leaders must come from corruption. A Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Phnom Penh, Mr. Yim Sovann, said, ‘Every year, Cambodia is included among the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. When there is an opportunity, high-ranking officials and the authorities always seek money for their own interest. This is the reason why they have big properties like this.’ This experienced opposition official did no forget to raise the economic growth of Cambodia, but he said that only one group of Khmers, especially the powerful and the rich, always benefit and become richer - as for poor farmers, they receive nothing.

“The salaries are still the major topic of discussion for low-ranking officials. Their salaries are small and are released late. The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, has criticized his very strongly. He explained, ‘A teachers’ average salary is Riel 180,000 (approx. US$45) per month. If we spend it carefully in an economical way, with this money a teachers’ family can survive only ten days. To go further, they have to seek money from other sources.’ Mr. Rong Chhun expressed also his anger, seeing too big a gap with the properties owned by state personnel holding different positions. He stated, ‘High ranking officials are rich, because they earn income everyday. In fact, just to cover the expenses of the utilities only, they can use their salaries.’ He went on to say that some teachers and other personnel of the Ministry of Education have not yet received their salaries for September.

“In Cambodia, everybody knows how much a normal civil servant earns. Therefore, they do not need to discuss this problem. Just by observing the wealth owned by an official, they can know how much they could earn from salary. When it is said that somebody ‘earns much’ in relation to an officials, this does not refer to salaries, but to the ability to seek income using their positions. But this habit has to be brought to an end. The creation of an anti-corruption law and a change of the mindset of Khmer people are necessary as an orientation towards human values, the two fundamental elements to reach those goals.”

Cambodge Soir, Vol.2, #56, 30-5-10-11.2008
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Thursday, 30 October 2008

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