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New Taxes a Burden on Poor: Opposition

Government officials are increasing tax policies but continuing with irregular expenditures at a time when they should focus on dampening the effects of the global economic downturn, an opposition official said Monday.

The passage of the 2010 national budget earlier this month includes taxes that will make difficulties for people already struggling in the depressed economy, said Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“In our view, the burden on people by levies should be avoided at this time,” Yim Sovann said.

Taxes have been doubled for car owners, while a 0.1 percent tax on properties worth more than $25,000 has been put in place.

The Sam Rainsy Party did not support the taxes, Yim Sovann said.

Cambodia’s 2010 budget will reach nearly $2 billion, an increase of $100 million from the year before, with spending up for defense, security, health and education.

But Yim Sovann said Monday the government employed irregular expenses, such as a budget for national disaster spending, or for “special mission,” “which we do not know what it is.”

Yim Sovann said he supported cutting salaries for advisers, as well as undersecretaries and secretaries of state appointed for political reasons, postings he called “a waste of the national budget we need to save.”

He did not, however, support cutting tens of thousands of teachers, which would help Cambodia build up its human resources.

In Cambodia, people pay higher taxes than in neighboring countries and others, but the revenue is still relatively low. Cambodia collects around 12 percent of its GDP in taxes, compared to as much as 40 percent in the EU and 23 percent in Thailand.

“It means the people take the effort to pay taxes, but the tax money drops along the way, goes into the pockets of some officials, and not 100 percent goes to the state,” he said.

Cheam Yiep, a National Assembly lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Yim Sovann was “politicizing” the tax issue. And while he acknowledged some corruption in the system, he called it “temporary,” claiming, “the government is now taking efforts, as we have laws to curb the corruption issue.”