Oil could turn Cambodia into Asia’s Norway. That was the word in a UN-sponsored conference to discuss strategies to deal with the country’s expected offshore petroleum reserves held this Wednesday.
Bangkok-based Norwegian ambassador extraordinary Merete Fjeld Brattested told the international conference, which is aimed at discussing how to use the yet untapped reserves to fuel poverty reduction, that Norway had once been the poor cousin of Europe.
‘When oil was discovered off the Norwegian coast in the 1960’s, Norway was blessed,’ she said, hinting that Cambodia would well become a rich country if it manages its vast oil reserves prudently.
The three-day conference, co-sponsored by Norway, aims to head off donor concerns that the recently discovered and un-estimated oil reserves may prove a curse rather than a blessing for Cambodia, which is notorious for endemic corruption.
Cambodian officials have said they expect drilling to begin between 2009 and 2011.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said at the meeting that Cambodia needed to work out strategies to fit its own unique circumstances, but that it welcomed input from other oil producing countries.
‘Not all objectives are reasonable for all countries,’ he said. ‘No single mechanism is likely to provide a silver bullet; oil producing and oil exporting countries need to use a combination of approaches.’
He made a warning that the foreign fixation on oil revenue should not overshadow the government’s efforts to make reforms in all areas across the board.
The conference is scheduled to end Friday.