“So paying their salaries every month is not a small story... The world always has rich people and poor people, and there are people who have high salaries and low salaries, this is very normal.”
CPP prime minister Hun Sen, 11 March, 2014
“If we compare Mr. Hun Sen and his group to us teachers since the past, he and his group has [sic] got more and more rich but teachers are as poor as before. Their children can study overseas, but my children don’t have the money to go to university.”
Elementary school teacher Kim Darany, 53, 11 March, 2014
The CPP prime minister may be right to claim that getting paid money every month is a big deal for teachers who once upon a time used to work for rice, and later for other necessities. He must feel invincible and proud of the achievement. He is not too concerned that after his reign of 35 years, the monthly cash payment is no longer sufficient without an appropriate amount.
While Hun Sen is happy to cling to the past with any thread he could grab, primary teacher Kim Darany prefers to live in the present. She is wise to point out the widening gap between the rich and the poor. She can no longer remain apathetic and wait for a step-by-step reform constantly promised by the Hun Sen government that has claimed for at least the past two decades to give top priority to education.
Has the CPP government been so broke it can only pay teachers a starving wage?
The World Economic Forum, as noted in the latest report by International Labour Organization, estimates that 10 percent of Cambodia’s annual gross national product (GDP) is lost to corruption. If the World Bank’s estimated GDP for 2014 of US$17.2 billion is accurate, then some lucky souls will pocket this year about US$1,720,000,000. There are so many zeros at the end that many will have serious difficulty in grasping the magnitude of the loot.
Nonetheless, who are these lucky souls? According to the Hun Sen wisdom that in life there are those with high salaries and those with low salaries, they must be the rich and powerful government officials. There are about 600 top brasses in the CPP government; thus, on average, each one of them would receive a cool US$3 million this year. Of course, the Hun Sen wisdom also applies in his cabinet, which means the biggest bucket of cash must land at the Vimean Ekreach compound.
However, if the primary school teacher had her way with her wisdom, the US$1.7 billion loot would give each one of the 110,000 teachers about US$15,600 in 2014. Or, to be fairer, each one of the whole 200,000 public servants would receive US$8,600 for the year. There would be no need for anyone to moonlight, and this would put to shame the opposition’s election promise of US$250 per month.
Considering the fact that the average GDP has exceeded US$10 billion a year for at least the past five years, it is only “normal” for the CPP prime minister to prefer going back to the past to keep all the loots to himself and his personal interest groups, leaving small potatoes like teachers to continue licking their empty bowls.
And the widening income gap cannot be any clearer to the primary teacher, or anyone else with their eyes open, in addition to the wisdom gap.
Ung Bun Ang