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Oil Official Predicts 2011 Production

Cambodia expects to start production of its off-shore oil in 2011, a senior national oil official said Wednesday.

Production could begin "if there is no delay," said Te Duong Dara, director-general of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, on the sideline of a conference between officials and international oil experts. "We will produce the first oil products for Cambodia in 2011 to reduce the import of oil."

The government's ministries were "working all together" to create proper laws and attract investment, he said.

"If we have the right laws and transparency, foreign investors will come to make their business with us," he said.

Estimates for six blocks of offshore development are in the hundreds of millions of barrels of crude and three times as much natural gas.

Experts warned Wednesday there was no guarantee that the production of oil would lead to prosperity for all.

"Economic growth in resource-rich developing countries has been on average two to three times lower than resource-poor countries," said Jo Scheuer, Cambodia director for UNDP, which sponsored the conference. "Many assume that the discovery of oil and gas reserves automatically translates into greater prosperity. Unfortunately, this is not the case."

Council Minister Sok An, who is also chairman of the national petroleum authority, said Wednesday Cambodia viewed the production of oil as a "vital step in contributing to the country's sustained economic development."

The government is responsible for transparency, he said, and managing the oil revenue to reduce poverty.