Think Tank Says Cambodia Isn’t Managing Its Resources

With the potential for vast state revenues from oil extraction and mining in coming years, Cambodia is currently failing to manage its nascent extractive industries, according to a think tank.

New York-based Revenue Watch Institute on Wednesday launched its 2013 Resource Governance Index, which included Cambodia for the first time. It looked at 58 countries, assessing governments’ reporting practices, control of corruption and rule of law in the oil, gas and mineral sectors.

Cambodia was classed as “failing” and ranked in 52nd place in the index, just behind Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Afghanistan.

“While Cambodia received a fairly high score for its institutional and legal setting, the nation’s very low scores in its reporting practices and enabling environment accounted for its low ranking in resource governance,” says a statement from Cambodians for Revenue Resource Transparency, a local partner of Revenue Watch.

“The government does not publish information on licensing and contract terms are not disclosed. Insufficient government reporting mechanisms and a lack of effective checks on the licensing and budgetary process also hamper accountability and transparency.”

The government has granted doz­ens of mining exploration licenses—and a handful of extraction li­censes—but mining has not yet begun on a large scale in Cambodia.

A consortium headed by U.S. oil giant Chevron has found oil and gas in an exploration block in a Cambodian-owned part of the Gulf of Thailand. Talks to begin extracting hydrocarbons appear to have stalled and the government is still drawing up a tax regime for such projects.

“Although Cambodia’s extractive industries sector is still in its infancy and exploration is on-going—generating only a fraction of the government’s revenues—civil society groups call for a greater, continued focus on adopting and developing good governance practices in this strategic sector,” the statement says.

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