With an increase in the Kingdom's defence spending due next year, CPP
lawmakers are pushing for nonessential costs to be reduced and an
improvement in revenue collection
A lawmaker reads a copy of the new budget at a National Assembly debate on Thursday.
SENIOR parliamentarians have urged the government to trim unnecessary expenditures and improve revenue collection in a bid to fund next year's increased military budget.
The government should reconsider subsidising lawmaker's phone bills and gasoline for state vehicles, Cheam Yeap, senior Cambodian People's Party (CPP) lawmaker and chairman of the National Assembly's Finance, Banking and Auditing Committee, said Thursday.
"If you spend US$100 per month, 20 percent should be cut out of that for military spending," he told fellow lawmakers at an Assembly budget debate Thursday.
The Assembly hopes to eventually allocate about $500 million to military spending in 2009, lawmakers said, although the draft Budget Law now only sets aside $224 million for national defence, equal to 19.5 percent of the budget.
"The increase in the defence budget is necessary," Cheam Yeap said, adding that Minister of Finance Keat Chhon should order customs and tax department officials to improve their tax collection this year.
Another CPP lawmaker, Chheang Von, agreed, saying that while Cambodia should find ways to reduce to the budget, the Ministry of Finance needs to collect all it can.
Military spending has taken a priority following a military standoff with Thailand over disputed border territory that erupted in July.
Despite the global credit crunch, Cambodia's economy in 2009 will be strong, according to Sok Hach, the director of the Economic Institute of Cambodia.
"We predict Cambodia's growth for 2009 to be between five and seven percent, and even though we will feel the impact of the financial crisis, we expect revenue collection to be quite high," he said.
He said he was particularly optimistic about next year's growth in the agricultural, tourism and garment sectors, but that banking and real estate would be more seriously impacted.
Sok Saravuth, the director of the Budget Department at the Ministry of Economy, admitted that there were some challenges ahead, but stressed that with some minor budget changes, the government's plan would be strong.
But Uth Chorn, the general auditor of the National Audit Authority, challenged the Ministry of Finance to combat smugglers and tax evaders.
"I've asked them to fight against huge enterprises that avoid paying taxes," he said.