Fewer than half of Cambodia’s 42,000 registered businesses have met the government’s deadline for reregistering online, prompting the Ministry of Commerce to consider another extension, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
The deadline for online business re-registry already has been delayed twice since the portal’s launch in December, with last Friday as the most recent target.
The next extension might go through the end of this year, but after that, companies that failed to reregister would face penalties, said Seung Sophari, a ministry spokeswoman.
“This time, punishments will be imposed,” she said. “We want all companies to be re-registered.”
Companies that fail to conform could lose the right to do business in Cambodia, and their names may be forwarded to the Finance Ministry’s taxation department, said Anthony Galliano, chairman of the tax committee for the European Chamber of Commerce.
The lack of participation might be a reflection of the difficulty business owners have with the online registration process, which is administered through the Commerce Ministry’s website, Mr. Galliano said.
“It’s very hard. It’s a complex process,” he said. “I think a lot of foreign companies are trying to do it, but it’s complicated.”
Mong Rethty, a prominent businessman and ruling party senator, said a limited understanding of the internet was another significant reason that businesses, especially those run by families, found it challenging to register.
“We’ve already registered as per the instructions,” he said. “It wasn’t difficult…but for other people, I think maybe they don’t understand the system and are not up-to-date yet. Some have told me that they don’t know what ‘online’ is.”
“I don’t know about online systems either,” he said. “My children helped me, and I just approved the final documents.”
Ms. Sophari, the ministry spokeswoman, admitted the government still has “a long way” to go. “We understand that usage of the internet is still limited. Our officials also still need to learn to operate the system, as it is new.”
(Additional reporting by Aisha Down)