Cameroon cuts costs, hikes salaries

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Yaounde - Cameroon raised the base salary for government workers and the military on Monday and entered negotiations with transport workers in an effort to head off potential social unrest after it cancelled fuel subsidies last week in a bid to cut costs.

The government announced it was ending subsidies on petrol, diesel and cooking gas last Monday, pushing up the price of petrol by 14 percent and diesel by 15 percent. Gas rose 8 percent.

“The monthly base salary of civilian and military personnel is, from the date of the signature of this decree, raised by 5 percent,” read the decision signed by President Paul Biya.

Transport workers had threatened to go on strike from Monday to protest the decision to cut the subsidies, raising the spectre of unrest as the country tries to please international donors.

However, union officials said on Monday they agreed to a government request for a one-month delay of the planned strike to allow time to negotiate a settlement.

“Since the government began with the increase in civil servant salaries, we are confident that our complaints will also be taken into account,” said Jean Vidal Nji, the president of one of the transport unions.

The unions representing drivers of buses, taxis and trucks argue that the increased fuel prices will lead to higher operating costs and cut into their earnings.

Cameroon has long produced both oil and cocoa, but analysts say a lack of reform and political stagnation under President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, have 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.

Reuters


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