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Decree puts riel prices into focus

A woman picks fruits for purchase at a supermarket in Phnom Penh last year.
A woman picks fruits for purchase at a supermarket in Phnom Penh last year. Hong Menea

Decree puts riel prices into focus

The government has issued a decree that requires all businesses to put price tags on their products and services in riel to increase transparency for consumers and boost the use of the local currency.

A prakas by the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) released yesterday builds off of a similar initiative announced in 2013 that fell flat on a lack of enforcement and confusion surrounding the vague penalties for non-compliance.

However, according to the MoC’s updated decree, the government will coordinate with multiple agencies to regularly inspect business operations to make sure that price tags are in place, and are properly displayed in riel.

“It is compulsory for all businesses and service providers that are doing business in Cambodia need to put a price tag on their products and services in Khmer riel,” the announcement said.

“Any business that doesn’t implement the order will be held responsible by law.” The decree, however, failed to provide details on what if any fines could be levied on businesses that do not comply.

Soeng Sophary, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday that the decree will be applied on all businesses registered with the government but will exempt small vendors and sellers in local markets. She added that the purpose of the decree was to force businesses to motivate their clients to use the local currency.

“Now, because the price of riel has stabilised, we need to motivate people to use it,” she said. “If people become familiar with seeing price tags in riel, they will use it more.”

Chea Serey, director general of National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), said yesterday that she welcomed the decree as it is in line with the government’s effort to support the national currency.

“The listing of price tags in local currency is an important factor in changing peoples’ mindset when it comes to understanding the notional value of the local currency,” she said.

“Changing the mindset is the most important factor of our strategy, so this regulation will greatly help us achieve our objective.”

According to Serey, most businesses will have to change their menus and labels in order to comply with the regulation. She added that the decree should serve as a symbol of national pride, adding that it does not bar individuals from paying in dollars.

“Customers still have a choice to settle in riel or US dollars,” she said.

Ngeth Chou, senior consultant at Emerging Markets Consulting (EMC), said that while the decree was a good idea, the implementation would be a challenge seeing that the government continually failed to even enforce simple decrees like the Traffic Law.

“Therefore, if the government has real commitment to do this, it could be helpful to enhance use of riel,” he said.

Lim Heng, vice president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said that while he welcomed the initiative, it would have little value for consumers making large purchases.

“For some goods like a car and a house it is better to allow the seller to continue putting the price tag in USD,” he said.

“But, for goods under $100, I think it is good to list its price in riel or force buyers to settle in riel.”

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