Prime Minister Cuts Port Prices, Starts Graft Probe

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday announced across-the-board cuts to the fees being charged by three of the state’s main logistics firms and ordered a probe into transport sector corruption, which he blamed for nearly half the industry’s expenses.

The announcement followed the government’s meetings last week with transport firms aimed at finding a way to lower the prices they charge customers. During the meetings, firms complained of high “informal expenses,” an apparent reference to bribes.

During a speech in Sihanoukville on Sunday, Mr. Hun Sen said those informal expenses added up to nearly half the expenses transport firms were facing.

Citing what he called a “secret” report, he said “informal expenses without invoices…are 48 percent, so please cut out the 48 percent of informal expenses.”

“We must do it,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “It is corruption…which causes competitiveness to decrease.”

He said he was placing newly appointed Transport Minister Sun Chanthol in charge of investigating the informal expenses and rooting them out, but gave no other details.

Mr. Hun Sen also announced immediate cuts to the prices being charged by three state-owned firms. He said the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and Kampuchea Shipping Agency and Brokers would both reduce their prices by 10 percent, and that the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port would cut its prices by 5 percent.

“We must not forget that among the countries of the regions and the world there is a lot of integration, but there is also competition,” he said. “The savings…will allow for more containers to come to our ports at reduced costs. This way, the price of imported goods can decrease and our exports can compete with others.”

Cambodia’s relatively high transport costs are often cited among the main challenges in making the economy more competitive.

Mr. Chanthol returned to the top position at the Transport Ministry last month after three years running the Commerce Ministry, where he oversaw a highly publicized effort to eliminate corruption from the business registration process.

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