In a bid to make Cambodia more business-friendly, the government will cut back on red tape and reduce industry membership costs, Sun Chanthol, the new minister of commerce, said yesterday.
Speaking to representatives from the private sector at a conference at the InterContinental Hotel in Phnom Penh, Chanthol outlined some new short-term initiatives that he said would increase the country’s competitiveness in key export sectors such as the garment industry.
“We will not be a manager of the private sector; we will cooperate to work closely with the private sector, with our dialogue partners to make Cambodia a competing place to invest and to do business,” he said.
Chanthol said the government would remove the requirement on all exporters to provide a Certificate of Origin (CO) when exporting to countries that did not require the accreditation. The government has traditionally required a CO on all exports leaving Cambodia, regardless of whether the receiving importer needs it.
The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which offers duty-free access for some products exported to the US, will also be made less cumbersome. While in the past exporters were required to renew their registration annually, Chanthol said yesterday that registration would become a one-off event.
The membership fee for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) will be reduced 20 per cent from $600 to $480 per year. The Commerce Ministry was also setting up a hotline for exporters to voice their concerns over non-compliant customs practices, Chanthol announced.
GMAC chairman Van Sou Ieng welcomed the initiatives, which he said would go beyond Cambodia’s garment sector.
“[This is] definitely a great improvement, and I am sure that by having further support it is a great opportunity to bring more investors to Cambodia,” he told the Post.
Others were more cautious of the new measures.
Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector working group on tourism, was positive about the announcement but said that in practice, the reforms still needed to be tested.
“If it is true, the result will be seen in six months to a year,” he said. “If this commitment is just talk, we will see it fail after a year.”
Cambodia National Rescue Party whip Son Chhay said the real barrier to doing business was corruption from within the Ministry of Commerce.
“It is not efficiency if it is just an announcement from the minister,” Chhay said.
“There needs to be a clear mechanism, like providing higher salaries to officers to discourage them from saying they won’t [process business documents] without demanding an ‘unofficial payment’ from businesses.”