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Salary Raise Reduces Opposition To Fuel Price Increase -Transport Unions 

The Presidents of the various transporters Unions in Cameroon have said Government decision to raise the basic salary for civil servants and the military will ward off potential opposition and social unrest in the country.

Transport workers had threatened to go on strike Monday, July 7, to protest the decision to cut the subsidies, raising the spectre of unrest as Cameroon tries to please international donors. The unions representing drivers of buses, taxis and trucks had argued that the increased fuel prices will lead to higher operating costs and cut into their earnings.

However, after President Biya’s decision to raise, by 5 percent, the monthly salary of civilian and military personnel, the union officials said they have agreed to a Government request for a one-month delay of the planned strike to allow time to negotiate a settlement.

Vidal Nji, the president of one of the transporters union, told this reporter that since Government has started with the increase in civil servants’ salaries, they are confident that their complaints will also be taken into account.  

Analysts say even though Cameroon has long been producing both oil and cocoa, the lack of reform and political stagnation under President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, has stymied economic growth and development.

The International Monetary Fund, which has projected Cameroon’s economy to grow by 4.8 percent this year and 5.1 percent in 2015, has for years called for subsidies, which cost around $600 million a year, to be cut.

But Cameroon has repeatedly delayed the move, following a violent 2008 taxi strike over fuel prices that left over 100 dead and a failed bid to cut similar subsidies in neighbouring Nigeria in 2012.

Meanwhile the decree signed by President Biya, increasing the salaries of civil servant and military personnel by 5 percent has left Yaounde civil servants with mixed feelings. Talking to a civil servant, Cho Sylvanus, he said the increase is just a provocation. “The amount is nothing compared to salary cuts in1993,”he said. 

To another civil servant, Eugene Ngassa, the increment makes no difference because for him, the five percent which has been increased will still be used to purchase fuel. In fact, it is just as if Government has thrown water on a “duck’s back”. “That percentage is an insult and inconsequential; it would not help us in any way,” he said.     

According to the Minister of Finance, Alamine Ousmane Mey, the decision of the Head of State is accurate and in a long run, the Government will get to a higher level of salary increase. “Therefore the five percent increase, is to make sure that the budget can accommodate,” he said. 

Alamine Ousmane, however, maintains that money for the salary increment does not come from reserved money deposited. “The budget has just been adjusted to suite the increment,” he revealed.

By Marianne Enow Tabi & Marie Solange Moki

 

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