MORE than half the 23-odd banks operating in Cambodia may lose their licences next year when legislation is introduced to regulate the banking industry, currently functioning without controls. Finance Minister Sam Rainsy said most of the banks had obtained their licences under the former regime and many did not have the capital requirement nor qualified bankers to operate. ''Some of the banks have zero capital and their managers and shareholders do not have any qualifications to be bankers,'' he said. ''They opened their bank for their own convenience,'' he said. The National Bank of Cambodia is drafting a set of banking laws with the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Mr Rainsy said the laws would be submitted and passed by the National Assembly early next year. Subsequently, all banks in the country would have their licences reviewed. ''We will withdraw the licences of banks which do not qualify to be banks - banks which do not have the capital requirement nor the qualified personnel to run them,'' he said. He said the Government would approach the monetary authorities of the country of origin of the respective banks to ascertain their status. ''If the monetary authorities of the bank's country of origin tell us that the banks have the financial standing, background and experience to be banks, then we will allow them to continue. ''If their status cannot be ascertained, we will close down the banks,'' he said. He said the same procedure would be used in the granting of new licences. He said there were too many banks in Cambodia, adding: ''In a small country like Cambodia, there is no room for more than 10 banks.'' The lack of banking laws had led to financial scandals being committed in the country, he said. A few months ago, a Thai deposit-taking institution operating without a licence had run off with people's savings. One of the country's top bankers said that under the old regime, it was extremely easy to obtain a banking licence. According to the banker, many of the licences had been granted to overseas Chinese businessmen who were keen to own a bank. He said: ''Every Chinese businessman dreams of having his own bank. ''And Cambodia was the place which made many of their dreams come true.'' Some foreign-run banks and their respective parent company or partners, listed in a document obtained from the Central Bank, are unknown in any other country. Among them is the Cambodia Asia Bank with a parent company going by the name of Adventure Investment, Singapore. The Government will also introduce tax laws next year to cover foreigners as well. ''In my opinion, everyone earning and living in Cambodia should pay some tax into the country they live in,'' said Mr Rainsy. He said foreign workers, including those working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), would be liable for tax. ''The people who work for private companies and NGOs are paid very high salaries by Cambodian standards,'' he said. Those paid more than US$300 a month would be liable for income tax, he said. ''About 99.9 per cent of Cambodians earn less than $200 a month,'' he said. Mr Rainsy said the Government was working on getting bilateral agreements with different countries to avoid double taxation of foreigners working in the country. Mr Rainsy said corporate taxes would not be very heavy, working out at ''approximately 10 per cent of revenue''. All companies, foreign and local alike, would have to submit their accounts to the Government for examination when the law was enforced.