Import Imbalance Disputed

Pen Siman, director of customs in the Ministry of Finance, said there was a good balance be­tween export and import tax collection for the first six months of 2000, despite reports that Cam­bodian imports far outweigh exports.

His figures show 421 million riel ($109,208) in import taxes and 420 million riel ($108,949) in export taxes collected during the first half of this year, compared with 400 million riel ($103,761) in import taxes and 200 million riel ($51,880) in export taxes for the same period in 1999.

The ratio allegedly exists between export and import collections despite what May Marith, director of shipping activity at Sihanoukville Port, termed as a startling imbalance between imports and exports at his facility.

As much as 90 percent of the port’s activities are devoted to handling imports rather than exports, he said, while gradually decreasing import fees are causing the government to lose money.

The taxes collected on most items Cambodia imports are lower than the taxes charged for the country’s main export items, which are clothing, logs, rubber and fish.

But according to Pen Siman, 46 percent of government revenues come from customs taxes. He said the other 54 percent come from value-added taxes, other taxes, the renting of buildings to government agencies and grant aid.

Customs tax revenues will begin decreasing over the next 15 years as tariff barriers are gradually lowered between Cambodia and other Asean countries as agreed upon by the member nations. Over 6,000 products will be on the reduced tariff list.

Keat Chhon, Minister of Econ­omy and Finance, admitted Cam­bodia will have to adjust its finances to account for the de­creased import fees. “If the custom tax is lower, we’ll have to raise taxes inside [Cambodia],” he said.

Pen Siman said there had been 10 cases of smugglers being caught along the borders in the first six months of 2000, compared with 30 such cases during the same period in 1999.

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