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Monday, December 10, 2007


Buying a job

I go to daily Khmer lessons with a young woman who is capable and intelligent. While chatting, Esther mentioned a particular organization that for the sake of this blog we shall call XYZ. Esther said she would love to work for XYZ but she didn't know if she had the right qualifications and if she did she couldn't afford to pay the bribe that would be required by the interviewer.

I was shocked. I am aware that paying a bribe to get a job is commonplace here in Cambodia and also Vietnam. In fact, while I was in Vietnam I watched a movie that told of the challenges a young woman faced when she was refused a job that she had qualified for because she either couldn't or wouldn't pay a bribe to the interviewer. In this didactic movie the young woman set up her own business, faced the challenges—yes the interviewer comes back later in the story and attempts to sabotage her efforts—and eventually succeeds. The fact that such a movie was made, perhaps by a government film studio, shows that this practice is endemic in Vietnam. This is also the case in Cambodia.

But XYZ is a huge international NGO. If I mentioned its name, you would more than likely be quite familiar with it. I expressed to Esther my shock that such an organization would allow such practices to take place. I went on to say, that if she applied for a job with that organization and was refused a job that she would otherwise have got because she couldn't or wouldn't pay a bribe then I would be prepared to take the matter to the head of the organization in Cambodia and if that didn't result in the interviewer being sacked that I would take it to the international media and that it would be very embarrassing for XYZ.

Esther then backed down and said she had to admit she had no knowledge of this practice within XYZ. This was simply her expectation. I assured her that the international reputation of XYZ was far too important for them to allow such practices to take place and that if they advertised a job she was interested in and qualified for she should apply in confidence that she would be able to win the job without having to pay a bribe.

The point I want to make is that it is the expectation of this practice that makes potential job applicants give up before they even start. Why apply if you are not going to get the job anyway?

How it works, so I'm told, is that the usual interview process takes place and the best person for the job is selected. They are offered the job on condition of payment of the bribe which is an amount equal to one or two months salary. If the best applicant can't or won't pay the bribe, the offer is made to the second best and so on down the line. Perhaps it is the sixth best applicant who finally comes up with the money. Can you imagine what this does to the efficiency and effectiveness of government and other agencies where this is practised?

I go back to my point that many potential applicants give up before they even start. Why apply if you can't afford to buy the job? There is a similar belief when it comes to applying for a scholarship. 'Why bother?' said a very intelligent student of mine. 'All the scholarships will go to students who have family working in the education department.' This may or may not be true. The point is that it is believed and young people who have much potential give up and waste their lives doing something way below their ability.

Until countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam rid themselves of such practices they will never reach their full potential.

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This is an interesting story, which is true for most parts.

Anyway, regarding the scholarships, if one applies for the Fulbright or the Japanese scholarships, one should not be concerning about the bribery. Please do not be discourage to give it a try.

I can't say for other type of scholarships though.
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