RANGOON — President Thein Sein on Tuesday announced plans to raise civil servant salaries and government pensions with about US $20. It marks the third time that his cabinet has raised government salaries since taking office in 2011.
Thein Sein presented the government budget for the 2014-2015 financial year and proposed the raise for Burma’s approximately 2 million government employees and pensioners per April 1, according to government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar.
The newspaper failed to provide key details of Thein Sein’s 2014-2015 budget and the overall size of the government budget remains unclear. The proposed budget will still have to be approved by Parliament.
In 2012, Thein Sein increased government salaries with $30 and last year he raised salaries with $20. The combined measures will increase the minimum government salary from $37 in 2011 to $107 in 2014, a staggering 190 percent increase.
On Tuesday, the president said the latest raise was being introduced because of an improved government budget and robust economic growth, while the measures also seek to address a rise in inflation.
Burma’s civil servants have long been paid paltry salaries on which they struggle to survive. The situation has created an ineffective government workforce, prone to demanding bribes for performing public services. Many officials are also forced to take extra jobs, which they sometimes perform during office hours of their government jobs.
Nyo Nyo Thin, a Rangoon Division lawmaker with the Democratic Party, welcomed the latest raise in salaries of government servants and retirees, but she warned that such measures could lead to a hike in commodity prices.
“This is good news for government employees, but … in the past commodity prices used to increase [after salary increases],” she said. “People are already suffering from high commodity prices, this issue should be solved.”
Khin Maung Nyo, an economist who writes for the weekly World Economics Journal, said the latest $20 raise would significantly improve the income situation of many civil servants, adding that Naypyidaw had long been able to afford such a raise, but the former military government had refused to do so.
He said the government could do little about the price of commodities, adding, “It is too difficult for the government to bring down current commodity prices.”
Htein Lin, a manager at the Inland Water Transportation Department, said he was glad to hear the news of Thein Sein’s latest salary raise.
“An increase of 20,000 kyat [$20] per person is not much, but we can understand that the government has to pay money to all employees, including pensioners. In the past, the raise was only for existing employees, now pensioners are included,” he said.
“For pensioners, 20,000 kyat can be used to buy a bag of rice, at least they can then support their household,” said Htein Lin, 61, adding that after 40 years of government service his salary would now increase from $120 to $150 per month.
Khin Yee, a primary school teacher in Rangoon’s North Okkalapa Township, who has worked in education for 30 years, also welcomed the latest salary increase. She complained, however, that teachers were coming under pressure from the Ministry of Education to end their practice of providing private tuition in their own time—a practice that offers many teachers a crucial source of extra income.
“Most of teachers depend on the tuition fees, which can more than double our salaries, but now they are not allowed to take on any more private students in the future,” she said. “Actually, an extra 20,000 kyat is very little for teachers, because they can earn 20,000 kyat from [private tuition for] one student,” Khin Yee added.