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High-level officials to get raises

High-level officials to get raises

Prime Minister Hun Sen is set for a monthly salary hike of more than $900 as part of sweeping changes to senior government and high-ranking civil servant bonuses, according to a new sub-decree.

The document, dated October 13 and obtained by the Post yesterday, states that Hun Sen will receive an additional $907 per month, while deputy prime ministers will be paid about $690 more. Senior ministers are in line for $605 extra, while ministers, secretaries and undersecretaries of state – which number in the hundreds – will also receive bonuses.

The government says the bonuses are not new money but merely payments for expenses that ministries were already doling out to high-level officials on an ad hoc basis.

“The bonuses include [payments for] receptions, missions, house rental, water and electricity fees,” the sub-decree says.

Minister of Public Function Pich Bunthin said the payments will be now doled out in a lump sum each month.

“Combining the expenses makes it easier,” he said.

The sub-decree has generated mixed feelings.

Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday he was wary of anything that “looked after the big fish, giving more to those who are already rich and not caring about the majority”.

Although Chhay said he had not seen the sub-decree, he believed that the prime minister did not need a bonus.

“There’s absolutely no need,” he said. “Ten thousand dollars more or $100,000 more wouldn’t make any difference to him.”

In 2011, Hun Sen declared his assets in a private filing to the Anti-Corruption Unit and told reporters that his monthly salary was only $1,150.

Writing in a New York Times op-ed in 2012, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, alleged a US State Department official had told him 10 years earlier that Hun Sen’s personal net worth was estimated to be $500 million.

Limiting bonuses to a set amount each month was something that could reduce corruption by making “expenses more transparent”, said San Chey, coordinator of the Affiliate Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific.

Transparency International Cambodia director Preap Kol said the additional bonuses appeared set to benefit only senior officials. The irony, he added, was that the system was overflowing with such officials – like secretaries and undersecretaries of state – it does not need.

“There are too many,” he said. “There should be an assessment to determine the actual needs and qualifications of those officials.”

This, and getting rid of “ghost” employees, would enable the official salaries of everyone in government – from the prime minister down to entry-level civil servants – to be increased to levels that compared with other countries.

On that note, Chhay said he will submit a draft of a proposed minimum wage law to the National Assembly next week calling for a national monthly minimum wage of 700,000 riel (about $171) and for civil servants to get at least 1 million riel (about $245) per month.

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