August 19, 2021

Hiring freeze for ministries

Volunteer medical students meet Prime Minister Hun Sen before going to frontline in the Covid-19 fight at peace palace in March last year. SPM

Lay Samean | The Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 18 August 2021 | 21:32 ICT

The government has suspended the recruitment of new officials for all ministries and institutions for 2022, reversing the government’s previous plans to recruit some 6,000 new officials to replace those lost to retirement or other factors.

The Ministry of Health was the only government employer granted an exception to the freeze.

“In the context of the prolonged Covid-19 crisis ... Prime Minister [Hun Sen] has decided to suspend the recruitment of new officials into all ministries and institutions, including teachers, members of the armed forces of all kinds and the sub-national administrations, except for the health ministry, for 2022,” stated a letter on August 18 from Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth.

Ministry of Civil Service secretary of state Youk Bunna told The Post that in the past the government had always allowed for recruitment based on the number of civil servants retiring. For example, if 6,000 civil servants retired that year then 6,000 new officials would be recruited to replace the retirees.

He expressed support for government’s decision to suspend recruitment and solve the more pressing problems due to Covid-19.

“I view recruitment at this time as an additional burden on the government, especially in the current context of Covid-19. The government has to deal with public health head-on, so that requires a lot of spending and we see some activities can’t possibly be carried out properly until the Covid-19 issue is dealt with. Recruitment under these circumstances is not an emergency and it will save money in the budget ultimately if we first address [the pandemic] head-on,” he said.

Bunna added that the economic situation for Cambodia across all sectors due to the pandemic was distressing and that all available resources should go to dealing with that issue in order to prevent further decline.

Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said the most important thing for the government at this time was to increase the efficiency and performance of public officials.

He suggested that the government urge the existing public officials to work full-time and perform their public services effectively because there are too many officials in some areas already so it is likely that each ministry can perform its necessary duties without having to recruit new employees if they focus on efficiency and effort.

“We know that the 2022 budget has already been drafted. Given the context of Covid-19, the economic downturn and the fact that the national income can’t increase much – Cambodia’s economic growth in 2022 is projected to reach 4.8 per cent – which is relatively small, so if we do not regulate spending there will be problems with the balance between income and expenditures.

“The motivation behind this decision is that the government is trying to reduce spending on salaries for officials because we are still in crisis,” Pisey said, adding that he felt it was a sound strategy if done responsibly because some sectors like services, tourism and others, will continue to suffer in 2022 and this will mean lower government tax revenues.

Bunna said the government currently employed 220,000 officials within the state employment framework, in addition to contract officials.

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