Opposition Questions Shortcomings in Government Revenue

The National Assembly on Friday passed a law approving the government’s revenue and spending in 2011, drawing criticism from the opposition, which claimed the amount taken in by the government during the period was too low.

All 77 CPP lawmakers present voted in favor of the law, while 9 opposition members boycotted the vote, saying they could not give their approval to the budget when so many questions remained over why revenues were not higher.

According to a copy of the law, the government recorded more than $2.5 billion in revenue during 2011.

That included income of $14.5 million from land concessions, fish­ing lots, mineral concessions and leases. Rights group Licadho said that at the end of 2011, more than 2 million hectares had been award­ed to private companies for agro-industrial purposes alone.

The government’s takings also included just $18 million in revenues from the country’s many casinos and $105 million from fuel imports, according to the law. The Ministry of Commerce’s CamCon­trol department in 2011 recorded some $1.38 billion of fuel imports.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the SRP, said the opposition parliamen­tarians had all agreed to abstain from the vote.

“We didn’t vote since we don’t sup­port the law because the law proves that the government was not able to collect as much revenue as it should have,” he said.

Mr. Sovann estimated that corruption by officials was costing between $600 million and $800 million in state revenues annually.

“There is no transparency at all in relation to the selling of state property such as land and government buildings,” he said. “The lost money did not go into the government’s revenue, but instead goes into the pockets of some powerful individual officials and businessmen.”

For example, he said, declared revenues in the tourism sector—just over $26 million in 2011—stood in contrast to government figures showing millions of visitors to Siem Reap province’s Angkor Archaeological Park alone.

He said well over $100 million should be collected from the estimated 3 million visitors to the temples in 2011, who pay on average $40 each, he said.

“If we look critically at the revenue made by each sector, we can see how big corruption is,” he said.

As well as those who abstained from voting, three Human Rights Party lawmakers missed the de­bate entirely because the assembly’s agenda did not make clear that the law would be discussed on Friday, according to Yem Pon­hea­rith, an HRP lawmaker.

“It proves an ill intention,” Mr. Ponhearith said. “Of course, we have read the law, and we noticed that the revenue collected by the government is very little.”

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