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US Energy Act Could Help Cambodia

Cambodia could benefit from a new energy security act, introduced to the Senate this week.

The “Energy Security Through Transparency Act” proposes changes to the Securities and Exchange Commission to stabilize energy sources and require energy extractive companies registered in the US to disclose the amount of money they pay to foreign countries and the US government for oil, gas and minerals.

Cambodia is on the cusp of offshore oil exploration, but critics warn an “oil curse” could put the money from the resource into the pockets of corrupt officials.

The transparency bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, among others.

Nilmini Rubin, a staff member for international economics and development for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA Khmer that Lugar was passionate on energy security and fighting corruption. The bill was prepared after examination of more than 15 countries, including Cambodia, and a report, “The Petroleum and Poverty Paradox.”

Lugar sent staff to countries “to look at the impact of the resource curse and to think of how the US government, with the international partners, whether either bilateral countries, or the IMF or the World Bank, or multilateral agencies, what could we do to fight the resource curse,” Rubin said at a conference on the extractive industries in Washington. “The report outlines a number of suggestions. I think the key ideas percolated up into this legislation.”

Ian Gary, a senior policy adviser on extractive industries for Oxfam America, told VOA Khmer at the conference the legislation could benefit countries around the world.

“This legislation would require any company that registers in the US to publish their payment to the governments around the world where they operate,” Gary said. “And this would be mandatory. It does not depend on the political will of a country to agree to disclosing information.”

Lim Solin, East Asia program manager for Oxfam America, said she was optimistic the bill, if passed, would benefit Cambodia.

“The trickledown effect of the adoption of this bill will be enormous, actually, for a country like Cambodia, because once the bill is adopted, simply all the companies that are listed in the US stock exchange will have to disclose all the information related to contracts and payment,” Lim said. “And that will be a great turning point in the history for the area of transparency. And I believe that the more Cambodia becomes transparent, the more competitive she will be.”