The European Chamber of Commerce yesterday launched the third edition of its White Book publication, a set of trade and investment policy recommendations for the Cambodian government drafted by members of the chamber.
The 2019 edition of the White Book contains 65 new, updated and retained policy recommendations across an expanded range of sectors, including investment protection, human resources, taxation, customs, transport and logistics, and information and communications technology.
According to the publication, the government should prioritise the drafting of the laws on competition, e-commerce, commercial contracts, and consumer protection, and commit to adopting these laws before the end of 2019.
The government should also offer greater guarantees, incentives, and assistance to investors through a new law on investment, incorporating recommendations from the private sector. It should also consult with the private sector to develop legal instruments to define specific remedies for violations of intellectual property rights.
With regards to tax, Eurocham suggests that the government considers the development of a securities regulatory framework, supporting compliant companies during the formalisation. The chamber also asks the government to consider reducing the penalties applied to taxpayers who voluntarily disclose tax irregularities prior to an audit notification being issued.
The government should also consider introducing industry-specific value-added tax (VAT) provisions for travel agents so as to more fairly reflect the nature of these businesses, as well as re-introducing the automatic exemption of the minimum tax for Qualified Investment Projects during the tax holiday period.
The White Book also suggests that the government replaces the predefined contract template for foreign employees with a standardised online form containing the fundamental details of a formal employment contract.
On top of that, the government should finish the environment and natural resources code of Cambodia, which will support the transition to a greener economy.
In real estate and construction, Eurocham says all consultants involved in construction projects in Cambodia must hold compulsory civil liability insurance. It also says the government should prescribe a set of universal standards of measurement for the real estate industry and modernise residential property regulations and construction standards.
With regards to agriculture, the government should clearly define substances that are banned in animal husbandry, combat illegal agricultural products, and diversify agricultural output.
Finally, the White Book asks the government to ensure that future laws and regulations incorporate practical transitional provisions, and that new legal instruments are not applied to impose retroactive penalties for non-compliance.
“With this context, we have identified an underlying theme that a more level playing field can be achieved through stronger, consistent and transparent enforcement of the Kingdom’s legal framework, which should also seek to recognise and encourage compliant practices,” said Arnaud Darc, Eurocham chairman.
“We believe that the adoption of our recommendations will ensure a more robust and dynamic response from the private sector to the changing demands of the domestic and international market,” he added.
“We hope that our third White Book will once again be welcomed by the government of Cambodia and all stakeholders in Cambodia’s development, as a means to provoke and engage discussion. We look forward to another round of results-driven dialogue that will support the Royal Government to take a systematic and complementary approach to policymaking that enables a more conducive regulatory and business environment,” Mr Darc said.
“We thank Eurocham for their recommendations,” said Phan Phalla, undersecretary of state of Ministry of Economy and Finance. “And, of course, we take these issues in the White Book very seriously and appreciate Eurocham’s engagement with the government.”