Craft ‘holding back’ SMEs: report

Corruption continues to hamper the potential of Cambodia’s small- and medium-size enterprises, a new report has found.

The report, released yesterday by Transparency International Cambodia, reviewed corruption perceptions among 100 SMEs in the Kingdom. It found that nearly half of the respondents had to pay unofficial fees for registering their company with the government, while 60 per cent reported corruption as having a damaging influence on their business.

Just 61 of the respondents had registered with the Ministry of Commerce or Department of Taxation, but a majority of them had to dole out bribes or “tea money” in the process.

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More Montagnards pour in

The number of Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam awaiting processing in Phnom Penh has jumped dramatically, with 67 now stuck in limbo, according to the United Nations.

Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), said that 22 more ethnic Jarai Montagnards from Vietnam’s Central Highlands have arrived in the capital in the past two weeks, having fled alleged religious and political persecution.

But the asylum seekers – some of whom arrived in January – have been left in limbo, with the Interior Ministry’s refugee department apparently refusing to process their claims.

“We have alerted the authorities on these arrivals and received no explanation on the delay in registration,” Tan said yesterday.

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Laws, tax collection lacking, gov’t says

A lack of regulations coupled with tax breaks provided to attract investors to the Kingdom are major reasons for low receipts in 2013, according to a government statement presented before a National Assembly committee yesterday.

Following a review of the 2013 National Budget, the Ministry of Economy and Finance found that a lack of tax regulations in the natural resources, casino and telecommunication sectors were hampering collection efforts in these industries.

At the same time, free trade agreements, reduced imports and government subsidies on certain products were limiting state revenue potential, the audit found.

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PM urges increase of Chinese investment

Prime Minister Hun Sen called for more Chinese investment into Cambodia during a meeting with China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Yan in Phnom Penh yesterday.

According to Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for Hun Sen, the premier told Gao that the Kingdom held great potential for Chinese firms.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested to Gao that there is big potential for cooperation between both countries, especially at the special economic zone in Sihanoukville – which is already backed by China and requires the Chinese government to attract more investors there,” Sophalleth said.

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Taiwan wants to open trade office

A Taiwanese trade representative has reiterated the need to set up a trade office in Cambodia, but the government said yesterday that its stance on the one-China policy remains intact and a Taiwanese-representative office is not allowed in the Kingdom.

John Tang, director of the Taiwan Trade Center in Vietnam, said a trade office would increase investor confidence in Taiwan, thereby encouraging them to invest in Cambodia, which is not related to the Taiwanese government’s ongoing dispute with China.

“But this is a terrible misunderstanding between the Cambodian government and us,” said Tang. “Our mission is to increase trade between Cambodia and Taiwan. Nothing to do with politics.”

Tang was speaking on the sidelines of a trade delegation meeting from Taiwan, comprising 60 businesses and jointly hosted by the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, which is looking to expand business interests in the Kingdom beyond the $750 million trade achieved with Taiwan last year.

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Cambodia, Thailand to discuss raising border-crossing quota

Cambodia and Thailand will begin discussions next month to increase the number of buses and trucks crossing the border – currently 40 crossings a day – in a bid to spur tourism and increase the transport of goods, according to an official at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

The two countries will discuss a bilateral transport agreement in Bangkok on June 5 that will increase the number of border crossings to 500 a day in the next three years and open up more
border crossings to ease the flow of vehicles, announced Vasim Sorya, director general of administration at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

“Cambodia and Thailand have been in discussions for a bilateral transport agreement for some time now. This time, Thailand has requested for a high-level meeting to discuss a bilateral transport agreement with Cambodia, hoping that an agreement could be reached this time,” he said.

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Cambodia invited for Phlippine rice tender

Cambodia has been invited by the Philippines to bid for a 250,000 tonne rice tender in June to boost the latter’s rice buffer stock during the lean months of July to September.

Philippines’ National Food Authority has been tasked with issuing a tender in June for the import of 25 per cent broken rice via a government-to-government deal, with delivery expected to be between
July and August. Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia are eligible for this tender as they already have import contracts with the Philippines.

Song Saran, chairman of Amru Rice (Cambodia), confirmed the invitation to bid for the Filipino rice tender but said that the Kingdom was not ready to partake in the bidding currently.

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Hoteliers worried by rise in peer-to-peer rentals

Siem Reap’s established hoteliers are concerned that holiday rentals advertising directly to users via the web are not playing by the same rulesA campaign from US-based accommodation rental site Airbnb to increase the number of Cambodian listings on the peer-to-peer accommodation website has sparked fierce debate in Siem Reap’s tourism community about the so-called “sharing economy”.
In recent years, Airbnb and other websites such as HomeAway, Roomorama, Vayable and Uber
– which cut out middlemen such as transfer services, hotels and travel companies to allow users to book directly with locals offering transport, accommodation, tours and experiences – have become increasingly popular.In late 2014, Airbnb employed a Cambodian-based “host acquisition specialist” to recruit accommodation hosts via social media and a series of meet-ups. In recent months, advertisements for meet-ups have told potential hosts they could “Earn extra income simply by opening your doors to guests from around the world. Whether you have a spare room, a couch, or are thinking of renting your home – we’ll help you get started!”

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National Road 5 paves way for industrial expansion

As part of the Cambodian government’s long-term industrial development policy, Heng Sokkung, secretary of state of the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, said the government is in the planning phase of creating industrial zones along national road 5.

The policies, Sokkung said, would attract foreign and local investors to invest along national road 5, especially the Japanese who have already shown interest in the Cambodian border town of Poipet. Currently, Toyota Tsusho is building a 20,000 sq. metre industrial park at a new special economic zone near the Thai border.

Sokkung said that the creation of industrial zones could be completed by 2025. This announcement coincides with the expansion plan for national road 5 in which the Cambodian government received a concessionary loan of $160 million from the Japanese government to expand the road between Prek Kadam and Poipet.

The industrial zones along national road 5 would capitalize on the increased transportation of goods and production potential that is expected to grow after the ASEAN integration, he said.

Chhim Phalla, director of the Ministry of Public Work’s Department of International Cooperation in charge of the national road 5 expansion plan, said that the road expansion will begin later this year with a set completion date of 2020. The expansion consists of turning the two-lane road into a four-lane road, he said.

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Despite tourism boom Siem Reap property prices have not increased

With the continual rise of tourism in Siem Reap, experts see a chance for increased property development in the Kingdom’s highest trafficked destination. However, according to a recent study undertaken by a local real estate agency, property prices have remained stable with little change, indicating that property development isn’t keeping up with the surging numbers of visitors.

Charles Villar, CEO of Key Real Estate, said Siem Reap land prices remained on par during the first quarter of this year with the same quarter in 2014. He equated this to the fact that the demand in Siem Reap compared to that in Phnom Penh has a smaller population vying for property or investment opportunities beyond catering to tourism and hospitality.

While Cambodia welcomed 4.5 million tourists in 2014, a 7 per cent increase from 2013, Siem Reap alone accounted for 2.3 million tourists. With the lion’s share of tourists flying in and out of Siem Reap, Villar believes there could be a boom in property in the near future providing some key developments take place.

“Basically, we need to let the world know that Siem Reap has potential for development in the property sector, and we need to have more businesses if we want to be the same as Phnom Penh, because there are things in Phnom Penh that are not in Siem Reap yet,” he said.

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