Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Calling on Cambodia to use oil revenue for anti-poverty efforts

An anti-corruption awareness group Global Witness is calling on Cambodia to be more transparent on oil revenues. The group says the amount of money that is generated from oil is only known by a few people, and is kept secret at the expense of the country. Global Witness calls on the government of Cambodia to use the money for anti-poverty efforts instead of keeping the money hidden.

The Global Witness report on Cambodia was covered by IRIN, in their story IRIN relates the oil corruption to what occurred to Cambodia's timber industry in the 1990's.

The long-term effects could fuel corruption and contribute to a "resource curse", whereby a tiny elite soaks up the profits instead of using oil and mining revenues to alleviate poverty, London-based Global Witness states in Country for Sale.

Cambodia is Southeast Asia’s second-poorest country after East Timor, with 35 percent of its population living on less than US$1 a day, according to government statistics.

Revenues from the 2005 oil find, which could total more than $1.5 billion annually, according to some estimates, should be directed to achieving its 2015 Millennium Development Goals, say critics.

"I see the rise of Cambodia's mining and oil sectors as just one part of the wholesale diversification of natural resource and state asset exploitation in Cambodia," Eleanor Nichols, a campaigner for Global Witness, told IRIN.

"Historically, the revenue generated by their misappropriation has reinforced the position and impunity of elites, further strengthening their hold on the levers of power," she said.

Global Witness has had a rocky relationship with the government, having closed its office in Phnom Penh in 2005 after threats over a report implicating top officials of illegal logging.

The Nobel-prize nominated group first monitored the country's forestry resources in the 1990s when international donors urged logging reform.

You can download the full report on Cambodia's corruption from the Global Witness website. The page explaining the report includes the press release, also hi and lo resolution versions of the document are available to download.

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