Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government, students discuss spending petro dollars By Kang Chan Amrak

Government, students discuss spending petro dollars By Kang Chan Amrak

Government, students discuss spending petro dollars By Kang Chan Amrak

Cambodia has yet to sign any oil extraction or revenue spending transparency agreements,

but the government knows how it wants to spend its new wealth when Chevron begins

oil production in the Gulf of Thailand, a top National Assembly official said.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit Commission of the

National Assembly, told university students attending a forum on oil issues that

oil revenue for Cambodia is estimated at about $174 million in 2011, rising to $1.7

billion in 2021. The figures are the same as reported in a research document released

in August by the International Monetary Fund.

He said the government's top spending priorities are rural development and poverty

reduction, infrastructure building, promotion of small and medium enterprises, and,

lastly, a reduction of oil prices in Cambodia.

"Cambodia does not have an adequate government regulatory framework such as

petroleum and mining laws, but now we are about to finish the drafting," he

said.

He said policies to ensure "the transparency of expenditure are also under the

consideration of the National Assembly."

Nearly 600 students from 32 universities attended the one-day forum at the National

Institute of Education on October 21. It was organized by students in cooperation

with the Youth Resource Development Program.

Another speaker at the forum, Kov Phyrum, researcher from Economic Institute of Cambodia,

said it is important that Cambodia sign on to the Public What You Pay (PWYP) and

Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). The campaigns promote the transparency

between government and oil companies in the extraction process and revenue distributions.

Yeap said the government has undertaken many discussions with EITI to learn from

the oil management experiences of successful countries.

Ngo Ngoun Theary, a research official with Oxfam-America, also expressed concerns

about the potential revenues. She said while the oil discovery in Cambodia is generally

expected to bring wealth to Cambodian people, the high expectations may not be met.

"Governance and industry transparency and accountability are the biggest things

the Cambodia oil industry needs to achieve. If the revenue management is not transparent

enough, the money will go to only a handful of rich people and the oil resource will

just create a wider gap in society," she said.

She said that direct employment of Cambodians in the industry could be very low due

to the technical aspect of the oil drilling and production.

In addition, she said, environmental issues need to be addressed to protect sea life

during the extraction process.

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