Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday dismissed international observers’ concerns about the potential squandering of Cambodia’s anticipated oil and pledged to use the revenue wisely.
“Day to day, I hear that there are concerns the government will use money from oil in the wrong way,” Hun Sen said at the close of a conference at Chaktomuk Hall.
“We have our own ideas, so there’s no need to advise us,” he said.
He also jokingly thanked the international community for worrying so Cambodia does not have to, adding that concerns he would no longer listen to the West once oil wealth started flowing were misplaced.
“The biggest worry is that there will be no oil,” Hun Sen said. “If we have money we will pave the rural roads with concrete, but the problem is that we don’t have the money.”
Some political observers noted, however, that there is already wealth to be found in many places in Cambodia, though it remains in the hands of the few.
“Poor people in the countryside don’t even have bicycles, but the rich and powerful have excessive luxury cars,” said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.
Political observer Chea Vannath noted that Hun Sen’s idyllic vision of the equitable sharing of oil wealth may not reflect the reality of Cambodia’s nouveau riche.
“When a couple is poor, they make promises to love each other forever,” she said. “But when they get rich, one of them goes looking for another partner.”
Chea Vannath added that concerns about the so-called oil curse are based in the pitfalls other resource-rich nations have found and Cambodia’s own poor financial management.
But CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that the government is learning from others’ mistakes and taking steps to ensure the anticipated money benefits Cambodia’s people.
“In order to avoid any concern, laws have to be passed,” he said, adding that a conference is planned to glean advice from countries that have successfully adapted to resource wealth.
“We prepare beforehand, aiming to avoid the curse,” he said.