The General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) collected more than $360 million in revenues for the national budget during the first quarter of 2015, a 13 per cent increase year-on-year, according to a statement from the department released last week.
The department attributed part of the growth to reforms carried out “enforcing implementation of the rules, curbing illegal smuggling, and improving the import-export paperwork”, read the statement.
Son Chhay, chief whip of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, recognised the improvements made by the department, claiming, however, that the reforms still left the door open for customs officers to rake in bribes.
“Of course, they made some improvements but it doesn’t mean that they have been collecting [money] following the regulations, as the reforms are still being implemented - that’s why we still see the growth rate is small,” he said.
“Moreover, I think, the increase in revenue is in parallel with the improvement of the economy. We got high growth so it is pushing us to import more.”
Cambodia’s total imports reached $10.5 billion last year while total exports stood at $7.7 billion, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce.
The GDCE collected $1.34 billion in customs and levies on goods in 2014, a nearly 34 per cent rise from $1 billion in 2013.
But according to Chhay, the collection system is still very messy.
“I don’t see any proper collection going on at some of the corridors on the border due to customs officers receiving bribes. So, there is still illegal smuggling going on,” he said.