Low-income workers to receive pay hike

Jan 5, 2010 (DVB), Low-earning public service personnel in Burma are to receive a pay hike that could in some cases more than double their salary, according to government officials in Rangoon.

All workers receiving between the lowest monthly wage of 15,000 kyat ($US15) to the mid-level 80,000 kyat ($US80), will get an additional 20,000 kyat ($US20) each, according to an officer in the Ministry of Education.

Although the reports have not yet been confirmed by the military government in Burma, the officer said that his department had received notification in a letter from the capital, Naypyidaw.

There also rumours that pensions for retired personnel would be included in the pay rise, and that government ministries and the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a government-backed social organization, have been collecting data for the wage increases.

The news follows outrage at the government's recent three-fold increase of telephone charges. Prices for mobile phones in Burma stand at between $US800 and $US2500.

Similarly, the cost of funeral services has also reportedly jumped from 1000 kyat ($US1) to 7000 kyat ($US7) for adults, and from 500 kyat ($US0.50) to 3000 kyat ($US3) for children under five, although this has not been confirmed.

According to the US State Department, the average annual wage for Burmese citizens is less than $US200.

"Some pensioners receive 800 to 1,000 kyat ($US0.80 to $US1) per month and the amounts do not even cover the cost of their travel," said a public service worker. "Pensions are considered too low."

He added that a wage increase could also lead to rising commodity prices in a country which has already has a 30 percent annual inflation rate and one of the lowest GDP growth rates in Southeast Asia.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

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