Laws, regulations, and capacity building comprise important steps in natural resource development, which can fill government coffers, Cambodia’s ambassador to the US said at a recent discussion in Washington.
“The revenue from both the petroleum and mining sectors will contribute substantially to the nation’s development of infrastructure, to form the basis for the future economic growth,” Ambassador Hem Heng said at the Oct. 15 discussion, organized by Oxfam America.
The International Monetary Fund estimated in 2007 that revenue from Cambodia’s untapped oil reserves could reach $174 million in 2011, climbing to $1.7 billion by 2021.
Since then, Cambodian oil has attracted major international corporations, spurring concerns from local and international organizations and donor countries that the government’s management capabilities may not be adequate.
Critics point to a record of poor management in other resources, such as timber.
Oxfam America is working with Cambodian government on natural resource management.
Lim Solin, the group’s East Asia program officer, said Oxfam America wants to see the government use resource revenue with transparency and accountability, and for future investment.
The strategy is to work with the government, civil society, the private sector and donors.
“We all have common goal to develop natural resources successfully so that average Cambodian people benefit from the developemnt” Lim Solin said.
Michael Zwirn, director of US operations for Wildlife Alliance, which has project in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains, said discussion of resource management can help improve the government’s opportunities when oil and gas begin to flow.
Government officials have proven very cooperative with Wildlife Alliance, he said, but some still lack political will and dedication to develop natural resources.
“There’re some individual members of the Cambodian government who are tremendously supportive,” he said. “The other members have not yet been convinced, but we’re helping to develop political will within the Cambodian government at a very high level, as well as the rural government in the provinces.”