Prime Minister Hun Sen said around 600,000 households, representing two million people, have been affected by Ukraine conflict-fuelled inflation and may soon receive cash handouts from the government.
On October 5, in response to inflationary pressure, he signed a directive on fresh cash payments for at-risk households.
“I trust that the relevant institutions will act on the [October 5] directive as soon as possible, so those who are suffering will receive support soon,” he said while addressing the Cambodia Outlook Conference 2022 on October 6.
He added that recent inflation was triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The resulting economic sanctions had fuelled inflationary chaos around the world, but the government would not allow the Cambodian people to suffer. It was fortunate that there are sufficient funds in the state coffers to assist them.
“Based on our observations, it appears that workers in the informal economy may be major recipients of this new round of payments. Many small businesses and vendors are finding that they do not have the purchasing power they once had,” he said. “The best thing we can do now is intervene and provide cash payments.”
He noted that the total number of people affected by Covid-19 and inflationary pressure totalled more than five million, pledging that the government would not let so many people slip beneath the poverty line and would therefore mobilise its financial resources to help them.
Meas Ny, a social development researcher, hailed the cash assistance programme, suggesting that the government take further mechanisms into consideration, such as reduced tax rates on certain essential goods.
The government on October 5 confirmed that it would provide cash payments to the poor and vulnerable affected by Covid-19 for a further three months. It has already implemented 10 rounds of the programme.
Hun Sen said the government would reassess the situation every three months, noting that people who are currently receiving the payments would continue to do so to ensure that their financial situations do not worsen. Assistance has so far been provided to almost 700,000 households, with a total expenditure of about $800 million.
“I estimate that this assistance will be provided for at least one more year, and expect that its withdrawal will be gradual, rather than immediate,” he added.
He instructed Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth to study the issue, saying that a 100 per cent cessation of the transfer programme would result in many families experiencing difficulties.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Planning will continue to identify vulnerable households across the country who may be eligible and in need of assistance in coordination with the National Social Protection Council (NSPC).
Vulnerable households are defined primarily as families living close to the poverty line or beneath it, including those with disabilities, with children under 2 years old, elderly people aged 60 and over, households headed by single mothers or caregivers, families with many children and anyone who is elderly and without support from any family members aged 19-59.