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Oil Money Won't Reach Everyone, Experts Warn

The money earned from oil and gas exploration off the coast of Cambodia will bring royalty money to the country, but there is no guarantee it will reach many Cambodians living in poverty, the government was warned Wednesday.

Cambodian officials have been meeting with oil companies to reach agreements on coastal exploration, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has said Cambodia could earn up to $6 billion by 2010, which could be used for development and poverty reduction. But much of the money could find its way into corrupt pockets, experts warn.

Cambodia has a chance now to avoid the pitfalls encountered by other countries, especially in Africa, which saw oil and gas development lead to negative impacts, Ian Gary, a senior policy adviser for the aid group Oxfam said Wednesday at a workshop in Phnom Penh.

Chiem Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's finance and banking committee, said it was necessary for Cambodia "to make sure the oil [revenues] go to the people to lift ourselves out of poverty."

Center for Social Development Director Seng Theary warned that "billions of dollars" might go to three or four companies, "but the money might create problems in society. There might be more poor people and more rich people, creating low morale and also dangerous negativity."