I think we should not panic immediately and not make hasty conclusions about a given situation in a given period. Cambodia is currently in rapid transition. It has moved from a developing country to one of rapid development, as evidenced in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville cities.
It’s like when you’re building your house. It’s a bit of a mess because everything is under construction. Either you do not build anything on your parcel of land, and you have beautiful trees and a beautiful environment, or you decide to build a building (home or business), where you will exchange the beauty of the environment – since you are going to have machines (cranes, tractors, concrete mixers, workers etc.). At that time, we can say that the scenery is not very pretty or beautiful. It will be necessary to wait for the building to be built to be able to judge the positive or negative points of the architecture etc.
Sihanoukville today is a large open-air construction site. No longer is it a quiet and peaceful seaside resort of yesteryear, where you could find a room for $5 and fresh beer for 50 cents. But this is the price to pay for economic development because the country needs to create wealth and jobs. However, it will take a few more years to enjoy the fruits of the real estate boom.
Let’s take the casino sectors in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, for instance. It is true that at the beginning it was controlled by the crime syndicate in the 1950s and early 1960s – after World War II. The development of these casinos were in several stages – especially when John F Kennedy was in power and declared war on the Mafia. The US government then forced all Mafia networks and organised crime syndicates to invest heavily in large projects in the outback – in order to transform the barren desert areas. This gave birth to the modern Las Vegas of today. At that time it was a mix of prostitution, casinos and murders. But all that is gone now and has been cleaned up! Today, the casino sector in the US is thriving and shows a reassuring face.
Now coming back to Cambodia. Tax reform is a big thing in the country and I think the government will tax more the profits of casinos. Cambodia has one of the lowest effective tax rates in the world for casinos. A 2015 report from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers noted that Macau had a 35 per cent tax on GGR, while Australia had a rate of between 10 and 45 per cent. Singapore imposed between five and 15 per cent.
In Las Vegas, Macao, Singapore, France, Monaco etc., we can observe strong sustainable development models – the generation of jobs, tax revenue, and revenue from the influx of tourists. Today, it is clear that the casino sector in Cambodia is still looking for its model of sustainable development, because it is still new in the country. But at the moment, we cannot compare it with a country with more than 50 years of economic development. We need to do things step-by-step and understand that the country is moving in the right direction. After all, Rome was not built in a day.
Police Major General Viseth Tith Advisor to the Ministry of Interior