Lawmakers Seek Drop in Gov’t Fuel Taxes

Parliamentarians are pushing the government to readjust the tax on fuel and lower the price of petroleum, saying the current prices along with fuel smuggling is affecting Cambodia’s economy.

The urging comes after the National Assembly committee overseeing the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Min­istry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Commerce met over the weekend. At that meeting, they learned the price of fuel in Cambodia is higher than in neighboring countries, said Assembly member Kim San.

“[The price of fuel] is too expensive if compared to Thai­land and Vietnam,” he said, ad­ding that he had paid 950 riel (about $0.24) per liter of diesel in Sre Ambel district in Koh Kong province near the Thai border.

The price in Phnom Penh is about 1,400 to 1,500 riel ($0.35-$0.37) per liter.

He said petroleum companies have complained that there is unfair competition between legitimate fuel companies and smugglers, and that 40 percent of the country’s petroleum market is not taxed because it is illegal.

“We want the government to reset the fuel tax and lower the price of petroleum; otherwise it could make the price of other products in the country rise,” Kim San said.

Ministry of Commerce Direc­tor General Mao Thura said the ministry has ordered customs officials at border checkpoints to curtail smuggling, but only about 20 percent of smuggling is successfully stopped.

“The smugglers always use guns, so it is not easy work,” he said.

Pen Simon, director of the Customs and Excise Department at the Ministry of Finance, de­fended his ministry and the customs department, saying the current gasoline price is “fixed” and that “it seems much better than before.”

“How can the price of fuel in our country be cheaper than in Thailand and Vietnam if this product has been imported from both countries?” Pen Simon asked. “I’m sure import companies must like to make a profit.”

According to Pen Simon, tax collection for petroleum is important because petroleum taxes make up an estimated one-third of the customs department total import taxes. Customs officials collect $319 to $350 per ton of gasoline and $250 to $260 per ton of diesel.

He said customs has cracked down on smuggling this year, citing at least four instances where the authorities confiscated 100,000 liters of fuel from boats or cars trying to smug­gle petroleum into Cambodia.

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