Ecomomy and Finance Minister Keat Chhon yesterday urged consumers to limit their gasoline consumption in the face of rising prices, saying the Cambodian government would not boost the hundreds of millions of dollars he claimed it already offered in fuel subsidies.
Speaking at the Ministry of Commerce’s annual meeting in Phnom Penh, Keat Chhon admitted that high gas prices were a greater burden to the country’s poor, but said the problem was not unique to Cambodia.
“It is a phenomenon happening on the global stage with all countries affected.”
Prices climbed to US$1.44 a litre for “gold”-branded gasoline yesterday, from $1.33 on December 31, a jump of 8.3 per cent, according to Ministry of Commerce statistics.
Keat Chhon said that in spite of this increase, gasoline prices were still lower than they otherwise might be because of the government’s subsidies, which he claimed totalled between $200 million and $300 million a year.
A potential reduction in the tax on imported gasoline had not been considered by the government, he said.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce director-general Nguon Meng Tech said yesterday consumers should try to cut back on their gasoline usage in order to save money at a time when many commodity prices were high.
“It would be good if people could do it, because they’d spend less on petrol and have money for other items,” Nguon Meng Tech added.
But some consumers claim the government is not doing enough to tamp down costs.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, noted the hit taken by lower-income workers as a result of gas prices.
“It is too high compared to neighbouring countries. This proves that the government does not care about this issue,” Rong Chhun said.
Gas prices in Vietnam as of March 8 were about $1.10 a litre, according to Vietnamese media reports citing the country’s Ministry of Finance.
Thailand’s PTT sold gasoline yesterday at $1.33 a litre, according to its website.
Cambodia’s small businesses said they had seen profits dwindle as fuel costs climbed.
Although business had remained steady, they were earning less in revenue.
Soy Bunnang, 29, a tuk-tuk driver in Phnom Penh, said fuel costs had cut into his profits.
“I would like the government to help us, otherwise we will not survive.”