THE National Assembly overwhelmingly passed the 2010 draft budget on Tuesday, the second day of debate. The US$2 billion spending plan passed with 81 out of 103 votes and unanimous CPP support.
The feature of the budget most heavily criticised by both the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party was Chapter Five, which levies new taxes on automobiles and property. Far from targeting the rich, opposition lawmakers said, the taxes disproportionately affected the poor.
“If the property tax in Phnom Penh began at real estate worth only 100 million riels, it will affect 90 percent of people in this city because the land and houses of plenty of people in Phnom Penh are worth more than 100 million riels,” SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said. “We want government to levy taxes on the houses of the rich and on vehicles with a price of more than US$50,000.”
SRP assembly spokesman Yim Sovann also weighed in. “If the government forces people to pay a tax on real estate in these economic circumstances, I would find it impossible to vote for this law,” he said, adding that it would affect people earning US$50 per month.
In a statement released to the media, the HRP said the government should find ways to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn on the electorate.
Chan Sophal, senior researcher for the Cambodian Resource Development Institute, said: “The tax on real estate should apply to properties worth more than 100 million riels. The government should ask more of the rich in order to help the poor.”