Forestry Revenue Must Grow, IMF Tells Gov’t

An International Monetary Fund mission applauded the government’s efforts to increase revenue but recommended it collect more money from the forestry industry, according to an Asian diplomat who attended an IMF’s donor briefing Wednesday.

Mission leader Chanpen Puck­ahtikom, assistant director for the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Depart­ment, told donors before leaving Cambodia that the government’s performance on collecting tax rev­enue is impressive, citing actual revenue from value-added tax, the dip­lo­mat said.

She applauded reforms on cutting ghost soldiers and downsizing civil servants, but criticized poor budget management and government’s efforts to increase reve­nue from the forestry industry, the diplomat said.

The IMF suspended loans to Cambodia in late 1996 in part because of the country’s inability to collect legal logging revenue. The government in late Jan­uary raised the royalty rate from $14 per cubic meter of timber to $54 per cubic meter. But it still has not reached its goal, collecting only 12 percent of the 1999 budgeted revenue so far this year.

Chanpen reported that logging companies reacted negatively to the royalty rate increase, suspending operations. She told donors the IMF mission recommended the government open dialogue with logging industry representatives to ensure cash flow, the diplomat said.

The mission also reportedly asked the government to speed up disbursement of budget mon­ey to are­as such as health and education, and improve customs ad­min­i­stration.

The five-member IMF mission was here for one week to review efforts at economic and financial reform, necessary for the re­sump­tion of an $80 million loan.

The mission has signed a non-binding letter of intent for the three-year, seven-installment loan package, but needs approval by the IMF Board of Executives.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon is scheduled to travel to Washing­ton on Sept 23 to discuss reform and the aid resumption with IMF mission members. He is expected to submit the government policy on structural reform.

“This reform commitment is ours, not the IMF’s. The IMF on­ly reviews what we have done and strengthens it,” he said Wed­nesday. (Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.