Customs duties collected in the first three months of the year rose slightly to $3 million, representing a 3 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
Pen Siman, director general of the customs department at the Ministry of Finance, said there was only a small increase because last year’s flooding increased transportation costs and made it difficult for investors.
The flooding, the country’s worst in 40 years, damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure. It also caused investors and others to lose money, discouraging them from buying and selling goods, Pen Siman said.
Smuggling continued to cause problems for the government, causing the loss of millions of dollars in tax collection, Pen Siman said. Nearly 100 luxury cars and Land Cruisers are smuggled into Cambodia each year, he said.
“The luxury cars are smuggled by powerful people who have armed men,” Pen Siman said. “The customs department isn’t strong enough to crack down on powerful smugglers.”
Banteay Meanchey Provincial Governor Thach Khorn denied that smuggling was going on at the border commune of Poipet, though he acknowledged the activity occurred in other provinces.
Moeung Kell, second deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, acknowledged that Land Cruisers have been smuggled into Cambodia, but said it has not occurred this year.
Pen Siman added that through the Asean Free Trade Agreement, tax collection from customs duty is supposed to be lowered each year. In 1999, taxes from customs duty amounted to 50 percent of total tax revenue, compared to 46 percent in 2000.
He also noted that Cambodia is not a strong exporter.
“Our country is like a water well where everything is imported,” he said.