the Mass Demonstration Organized by SRP Members of Parliament
to Demand that the Government Lower the Prices of Merchandises
or Provide Salary Increases for Civil Servants and Factory Workers
Commensurate with the Prices of Goods
The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) is organizing a mass demonstration in Phnom Penh on Sunday, April 6, 2008, to demand that the government lower the prices of merchandises or provide salary increases for civil servants, factory workers and all employees commensurate with the prices of goods.
Over the past few months, the prices of goods have been soaring, in particular for gasoline, rice, meat, fish, vegetables and all kinds of foodstuffs. For example, currently, the price of gasoline has increased to almost 5,000 riels per liter and the price of rice is close to 4,000 riels per kilo.
The increase in the prices of goods is caused by several factors. Some of these factors are related to the situation on the international markets, whereas others are related to ineptitude in the economic management of our country. It is a fact that the prices of goods have increased in neighboring countries, but these increases are minimal compared to the rate of inflation in our country where the prices of goods have increased from twofold to threefold (100% to 200%) over a one-year period.
The sharp increase in the prices of goods in Cambodia is due to corruption and incompetence on the part of the government.
Corruption is behind the heavy tax burden on the population (in particular for gasoline), but the bulk of the taxes collected does not go to the state coffer, instead, it goes in to fill the pockets of corrupt government officials. Corruption is also behind commercial monopolies in various sectors of the economy because a number of cunning merchants and dishonest companies pay bribes to government officials in order to obtain those monopolies so that they can curtail competition and increase the price of goods and services as they please. Meanwhile, the inept government is unable to manage the economy properly and causes the riel (our national currency) to weaken vis-à-vis neighboring countries' currencies, which is another cause for the sharp inflation in Cambodia.
When Sam Rainsy was the Minister of Economy and Finance between 1993 and 1994, the prices of goods on the market were low and stable. At that time, the price of one liter of gasoline was only 600 riels, and one kilo of rice cost only 600 riels. The riel was much stronger (2,500 riels to the US dollar), which helped curb inflation.
In order to reduce the prices of goods on the market right now, the SRP demands that the government adopt the following measures:
1- Lower taxes on gasoline from the current 1,200 riels per liter to 500 riels per liter, and lower the profit margin made by gasoline distributors from 700 riels to 400 riels per liter. These two measures alone will lower the overall price of gasoline by 1,000 riels per liter, and they will bring down the price of gasoline to be in par with prices in neighboring countries. This is a necessary condition to stop the illegal smuggling of gasoline.
2- End the commercial monopolies granted to a number of cunning merchants and dishonest companies which allow them to increase the prices of goods as they please because of the lack of effective competition. This situation is possible because of the protection provided to these cunning merchants and dishonest companies by corrupt government officials.
3- Ensure an adequate economic, financial and monetary policy so as to preserve the stability of the riel and to prevent it from depreciating against neighboring countries' currencies such as the Thai Bath.
4- Control the printing of bank notes so as to avoid issuing paper money in an irresponsible and disorderly manner. Ensure that any increase in the money supply match with actual economic growth and the level of foreign reserves owned by Cambodia. If the government continues to inflate the money supply by secretly printing bank notes, especially for political reasons (to buy votes before the upcoming elections), the riel will continue to depreciate and inflation will continue to accelerate.
5- Implement land reform by distributing unused state-owned lands to landless farmers or those who do not have enough land to live on, so as to increase agricultural production nationwide. Rice production in particular will be increased to a maximum in order to meet demand and to lower the price of this staple on the market. For the tens of thousands of hectares of lands grabbed or stolen from the State or from the people by corrupt government officials and cunning businessmen, they must be returned back to the people so that Cambodian farmers can effectively plant crops needed to counter inflation.
If the government is unwilling or unable to implement the five above-described measures to lower the prices of goods, then it must increase the salaries of civil servants, teachers, policemen and soldiers, as well as factory workers and all employees at a rate that is commensurate with the rate of inflation. For example, if the prices of goods double, salaries must also be doubled. Otherwise, the people's living conditions will undeniably deteriorate and the government will have to take the responsibility for this deterioration in the people's living conditions.
The 24 SRP Members of Parliament
For more information please call 092 854 053 or 012 858 857 or 012 731 111