Gov’t to Raise Taxes to Clean Up Litter in Cities

Environment Minister Say Sam Al on Wednesday announced the creation of a recurring annual $5-million fund to help Phnom Penh and every provincial capital clean up their trash-strewn streets, especially outside homes and restaurants.

Speaking at the start of the ministry’s three-day annual conference in Phnom Penh, Mr. Sam Al said the initial $5 million had already been set aside for the first year. To keep the fund going, he said, the government would raise taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and second-hand electronics, but did not elaborate. In Svay Rieng province, the fund will also cover Bavet City.

“We are starting the clean city project because the government is concerned about pollution,” the minister said.

After the first year, he said, “we will take the $5 million collected from taxes and divide it among the 26 cities so they can clean their cities; each city will receive about $160,000.”

However, the minister appeared to be having trouble with his math.

Giving 26 cities $160,000 each adds up to $4.16 million, far less than the $5-million total the minister mentioned. Contacted later Wednesday and asked to explain the discrepancy, Mr. Sam Al said that, in fact, only $2.5 million would be evenly distributed among the 26 cities. But that comes to only $96,000 each. Asked again to explain the discrepancy, the minister deferred to his staff.

Dy Thiden, deputy director of the Environment Ministry’s pollution control department, explained that the fund would indeed total $5 million. He said half would be divided evenly among all the cities and that the rest would be dolled out proportionally by population.

Also during his opening remarks Wednesday, Mr. Sam Al singled out factories in Kompong Cham province’s Choeung Prey district for failing to properly dispose of their liquid waste, which is currently spilling into the ground untreated.

“So this is a major problem that local authorities and the industrial zone’s owner must solve immediately,” he said.

Mr. Sam Al did not elaborate on the case, though it appeared to be part of another ministry initiative he announced early last month.

At the time, he said the ministry had sent out letters to roughly 1,000 factories across the country ordering them to assess the environmental impacts of their operations and take steps to address conditions that fail to meet government guidelines. He said inspection teams would start checking up on the factories every six months and that those found wanting would “face the law.”

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