Selected Speech Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the Closing Session of the Annual Review Conference Summarizing the Works and Achievements in 2021 and Work Guidelines for 2022 of the Ministry of Interior [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV: 23/02/2022

[From the prepared text 1]

Point 8 – 2022 is the first year to implement the five-year plan of the National Program for Decentralization and De-concentration, Phase II, in order to continue to promote the process of sub-national administrative reform to achieve the goals of ministries, institutions, administrations at all levels. At the sub-national level, continue to participate in the preparation of annual action plans and budgets to implement reforms with a high sense of responsibility […]

[Start of Elaboration 1]

Regarding the National Program for Decentralization and De-concentration Reform, I would like to take this opportunity to speak to the leadership of the Ministry of Interior as well as the provincial governors about the appointment of officials. In the past, we have worked hard to organize ethnic officials in the Northeast and in Koh Kong Province. Before that, we sent many Cambodian officials on important tasks in the Northeast. Later we also organized training for the officers from those areas to be responsible for the works there and we did this work successfully. We did a great job for Koh Kong province too.

One of the issues that I would like to point out is the status of districts and/or provinces where there are concentration of Cambodian Muslims population […]. I urge that there must be one deputy governor (from the ethnic population) in the provinces where the Muslims live, and if possible, where capacity allows, the deputy governor of the districts or Khan with the largest Muslim population.

This is not a quota, but an issue related to government policies and facilitation for the works we are doing to serve people. Of course, there is limited number of seats available. We see that now, as we begin to transfer jobs from the national to the sub-national level, more works are now at the sub-national level. That is why the Standing Committee (of the Cambodian People’s Party) decided to assign the task to Samdech Krala Haom to amend the laws related to increasing the number of seats for the Board of Governors of the Capital, Districts, Khans, and Municipals.

I suggest that in any districts with concentration of Muslims, there should be a deputy governor (of the Muslim origin) in that district or Khan, so that we can facilitate community relations, and that is part of the racial harmony. I repeat, this is not a reserved quota for Muslim, but this is a policy that we must pay attention. Please call on (Muslim) students as well as Muslim officials to pay attention to capacity building because it is not possible to choose just any Muslim (without qualifications) for that matter […]

… We must start with from formulating a policy framework, as we have set out that at the provincial level there should be at least one female deputy governor. If the provincial governor is a woman, then there will be two female members in the board of governors, meaning one governor and one deputy governor. Well, we set out general principles, and in institutions, we set out policies that there must be at least one female Secretary of State and at least one female Undersecretary of State. We are now also developing such a policy framework. Therefore, provinces with Muslims should review how many districts in their provinces to fit in this policy and submit this proposal to the Ministry of Interior to check the qualifications to appoint those officials later.

We will be amending the law to increase the number of seats for more positions. Now, to be honest, I pity those at the subnational level. Too much works. The jobs of a minister in Phnom Penh is easy, because we are in the office […] but the officials at the grassroots level are very difficult. Sometimes we invited them for a meeting in Phnom Penh, and while being busy in Phnom Penh, they had so much works waiting for them at the grassroots. Especially when we transfer more functions, the workload falls more down […]

It is part of the policy that we have developed and implemented in Koh Kong, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces. If I observe, there are not many provinces with lots of Muslims. There are provinces of Kampong Cham, Kratie, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Kampot, etc. Phnom Penh may have one Khan/districts … Officials we needed must meet the necessary qualifications to be appointed as deputy governors or governors. This is just another indication of the ongoing reforms at the grassroots level […]

[End of Elaboration 1]

 

[From the prepared text 2]

Point Ninth – We must continue to work together to implement the Royal Government’s measures to combat Covid-19 by continuing to promote the Covid-19 vaccine, which is a key measure linked to the consistent implementation of the “3 Dos and 3 Don’ts” measures, while adhering to the lifestyle and work with Covid-19 in a new normal way.

[Start of Elaboration 2]

Support Customs and Tax Departments in Revenue Collection

His Excellency, Lok Chumteav!

I think that there is one thing that His Excellency Lok Chumteav can consider as the 10th point or a separate point of reference related to the issue of requesting all forces, both armed forces and civilians, to support the process of collecting revenue for the state and try to save money […]

This relates to two points. Firstly, I would like to emphasize that we must jointly campaign to support the revenue collectors, namely the Customs and Taxation Departments […] if we cannot collect revenue and let the culture of not (paying) taxes continue, it is a disaster for our country. I give an example to illustrate the absoluteness […] when I first issued an absolute order that from the next June or July, there will be no more unpaid tax duty vehicles or right-hand drive on the road. We collected revenue from 5,993 unpaid tax duty vehicles, equivalent to $ 51,600,000 as of yesterday. We still have another half to collect. The Ministry of Economy and Finance’s estimates are not wrong. There are more than 10,000 units worth more than US$ 100 million. Now we start from taking strict measures. So far, we have collected US$ 51 million from tax evaders. This is just about cars. There is something else.

Therefore, I would like to ask the officials or those who have the money to buy a car or motorcycle to pay taxes to the state. We cannot be complacent about this. If the state has no income, how can the state cover the expenses […] frankly speaking, the poor do not have money to purchase cars. Well, let us be honest. The best they could do perhaps was to buy an old motorcycle. Why those having money and using expensive cars falsify the plate numbers, or sometimes taking refuge under the license plates of the army, police, parliament, senate, and government […]

If we set a bad example, how do we expect others to pay taxes? So please continue to cooperate […] we must mobilize those who initially evaded paying taxes to pay taxes. This is the point where I am making an appeal and issuing an order for all levels, all institutions to do this work […] where do we get money from every day to pay salaries? Is it not that we get salaries from taxes (collection) […] we also needed it for other expenses. Let us all work on supporting customs and taxation. Without the support of local authorities and (armed) forces, we will not be able to achieve the goal of raising revenues for the nation.

Non-Tax Policy on Agricultural Land Since 1979

In Cambodia, there many concessions for its people, including agricultural land taxes. We never take agricultural land tax for our national budget. The CPP has been leading this work since 1979, and if the CPP continues to lead, the people can be sure that there will be no land tax. If the next generation levies taxes on the agricultural land, if my soul still knows, I will curse them because it is my policy from the beginning […] under my leadership since 1985, I do not take (agricultural land tax). From 1979 in the leadership framework until now, 43 years, I still do not impose farmland land tax. If I could live to be 100 years old, I would still not take (agricultural land tax), but when I die, and if the next generation of CPP leaders were to take farmland tax from farmers, and if my soul knew, I would curse them.

Farmers need our support, not taxes from them. We need to invest in the canal system and other investments so that they can develop the family economy. Not a time to take tax from them. Even if you take taxes from them, you cannot get rich. Let us help them to become rich. It alleviates the fact that we have to intervene to help them. I also experienced the tears of my parents. They used to confront the dilemma of flooded rice fields and taxes. This is not a new story. (The case of) “The Beast” village in Kampong Chhnang province, you may ask why it happened? Since the 1940s, the French tried to collect taxes. As the people had nothing to pay, they rose against them and killed the French tax collector. They then called the village “The Beasts” […] it was all about tax issue.

That is why I decided in my life that I do not allow my hands to collect taxes from farmers. Instead, I lead the land reform that Pol Pot took away as common property and return the property to the people. We have distributed land to people when the country has a population of six to seven million and we now have up to nearly 17 million people. We are in short of land and destroying the forest […] I urge all business people to pay taxes according to the law in force and ask the authorities to support the collection of taxes by the customs department properly […]

Exercising Costs Management and Thrifts

Second, I would like to urge the sub-national authorities to focus on costs management. We all already know that the world is going through difficulties because of Covid-19. Before 2020, in a year, we earned three, we spent two, we saved one […] but since the Covid-19 began, we have not made enough money. Although we earned more than US$ 400 million a month, it is not enough for our expenses. The money we saved in the past is getting less […] so I would like to issue an order. Although you have already in plan, but if it is not necessary, please postpone, and wait for Covid-19 to subside.

If you think about spending without looking at the source of income, the expenses would be big. Some expenses are huge but we cannot avoid, while some we can. Expenses we cannot avoid are needs to buy vaccines to inject people. It is inevitable […] today we are also launching the vaccination campaign for the 3-year-old children.

We have no idea as to when we can stop using the vaccine. We must have money at hand. It is not possible to borrow money to buy vaccines. We needed cash. We had to release the budget. We continue spending almost US$ 40 million a month to feed the poor and vulnerable people. We must also provide proper care, medicines, and food for the patients at Covid-19 care and quarantine centers. Now there are effective medicines. We ordered […] Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, HE Aun Porn Moniroth, at the request of the Ministry of Health, requested to release 7,000 doses from the reserve stock for today, because in a few days the new batch will come […] (medicine) is not always easy to buy. Sometimes, even with money it is not easy to buy […]

Delay Unnecessary Expenses, Balance between Income and Expenses

[…] It has been two years now that we did not increase the salaries of our civil servants. I would like to thank all the institutions that have complied with the insistent request and the regulations in place not to recruit new employees, which adds to the staff burden costs. Keep up the good work. As far as recruitment is concerned, we must think from the day they go to work until the day they die. They work and they get paid until they retire, they have money in retirement until the day they die.

This is what I called the staff burden, which normally should be only 4% of GDP. We have already paid 5 or 6 percent. We have the budget […] it is just that we did not raise salaries. We still offer Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben bonuses for our civil servants and the armed forces. That is all necessary expenses. I propose a delay so that we can reduce costs. We are ready to reserve this money in case we are in force majeure situation […]

… Previously we earned three, we spent two, and we saved one. (Thanks to the saving) we had, fortunately, we used them when Covid-19 happened. I would ask relevant institutions to prioritize their demands […] yesterday … a unit argued in a request that they needed to get ready for works at the local level in 2022 and 2023, and they requested to buy two cars […] one Ford 2022 and another one in 2022 too. I wrote back that the budget is struggling, I cannot allow such purchases […] there is no reason to go down to the grassroots (at this time) […] let us pause, and delay. Some plans can be postponed. I ask the Minister of Economy and Finance to inspect those requests seriously for me. I cannot run out of reserves for the fight. I urge everyone here not to make requests, and those at the lower level do not make proposals […]

I always sent (status of income) every weekend. I always send into the Royal Government Group. All members of the Royal Government know how much incomes we have. Last month, on the night of the 31st, I sent a report that we have received USD 288 million in internal taxes and USD 195 million in customs. This month, we have not got the figures yet. As of yesterday, the customs revenue is less than USD 130 million, and the tax is not there yet but they hope to pick up from today onwards […]

I am thankful that for the last two years we have reduced expenses by ministries on stationaries to make up for the costs we needed. We have not yet brought down the expenditures to support people infected and/or impacted by Covid-19, and to buy Covid-19 vaccines, since Covid-19 is not over, this is the point I want to make […]. Samdech and Excellency can put this comment in as the 10th point or a separate point, or the order and the appeal, urging to work together to help the revenue collection unit have a tax against tax evasion […]

As far as revenue is concerned, we must support the revenue collection unit, while the expenditure department must all save money. The war is getting worse. Although the Omicron variant caused less death but if it infects a great number of people, what are we going to do? […] the forthcoming situation is not yet clear for us. To be clear, we must have tool at hand and that is the budget. We have to defer expenses that it is not necessary to a later time. We even put off the road and bridge construction sites. People can cross the river with ferry the way our ancestors did to save money for Covid-19 treatment. All this is for us to understand, otherwise spending would finally bankrupt the Royal Government.

Macroeconomic Management to Keep 17 M People from Economic Bombs

We have already experienced owing salaries to the civil servants. At that time, our civil servants said that Cambodia has 60 or 70 days in a month. We have now been able to pay twice a month because we have saved cash. We have increased salary and let our civil servants draw twice a month. We do not back away from this program. There is no shortage of salaries. We may defer other priorities but we keep money for this (salary). The necessary expenses that we cannot skip is the salary, daily treatment of Covid-19-related diseases that we have to find and order new and best drugs […]

I am calling on all companies to fulfill their tax obligations. I see that some of the debt figures that the company owes to the state are high. Please hurry to pay taxes. Although today we work within the framework of (Ministry) Interior, but we have ministers, governors, all together. Let us do it. This is a life-and-death matter. Covid-19 can kill people […] so far 3,023 died and Covid-19 can continue to kill. Today there is one more death, maybe tomorrow there will be another or the number continue to increase or decrease, but I would confirm if the economic bomb exploded, nearly 17 million people are gone. What we needed to do is to manage macroeconomics, control inflation to ensure the livelihood of our people.

Let Economy Fall into No Crisis along with the Public Health Crisis

Let me take this opportune moment to talk to (Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) His Excellency Veng Sakhon about pig issues. I have written an instruction before, but HE Veng Sakhon did not cooperate. I then wrote to (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance) HE Aun Porn Moniroth to do this work again. It is a problem with supply. We have a need. Yes, we support local farmers raising pigs, but what if we satisfy demands of 4,000 to 5,000 local pigs raising farmers and leave an estimated 17 million people to suffer from rising pork prices? In the past, I only saw correspondences. Now, maybe (Minister Veng Sa) Khon should increase cooperation a bit. Among the ministers, I would like to point out that the minister who does not seem to cooperate with others is the Minister of Agriculture […]

Do not forget we are a member of the World Trade Organization, a member of the AFTA – ASEAN Free Trade Area, a member of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, and we are now a member of the RCEP – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, in the region. Well, we cannot take separate measures. Please inform all our pig farmers that we cannot close the border to prevent the entry and exit of goods, and consider that we respect the law […] we must work together on how to prevent our economy from falling into a crisis while we are busy dealing with public health crisis. Do not say that this Prime Minister is mean. No. I follow up on works of the ministers. I needed to keep abreast with who works how. Sometimes we have to be firm, thorough and cooperative. Do not make me your correspondence handler because one minister refused to talk to another minister […]

Some people would have a chance to comment that Mr. Hun Sen […] was upset. You bet I will never be. I am never under stress […] I have the need to tell people all over the country as this is a TV live broadcast […] if inflation occurs during this health crisis, it would be catastrophic […] I am talking a bit so loudly and I touched on (HE) Veng Sakhon. I wanted to advise you and so that you would say I never say so […]./.