PHNOM PENH: Cambodia is likely to see revenue from its potential oil wealth as early as 2010, the UN said on 23 February, amid high hopes that petroleum could lift the Southeast Asian nation out of poverty.
At least 700 million barrels of crude oil are also estimated to lie off the country’s coast, said Douglas Gardner, the UN Development Programme’s resident representative.
“The likelihood of significant oil and gas revenues being generated off the coast of Cambodia beginning sometime in 2010 presents a truly unique opportunity to secure the country’s long-term growth,” he said at an economic forum.
With global oil prices trading around $60 (Rs2,647) a barrel, Cambodia’s potential oil resources could bring the impoverished nation $1.7 billion per year, Gardner said.
Te Duong Tara, director-general of the state-run Cambodian National Petrol Authority, which manages oil fields, said he hoped to see oil production starting as early as 2009.
“We are a poor country, we will not waste our money,” Te Duong Tara said referring to the use of the potential oil revenue.
Cambodia created a buzz in the oil sector in 2005 when US energy giant Chevron Corp discovered petroleum off the country’s coast, striking black in four of five test wells.
Since then, firms from France, South Korea and Japan are reportedly seeking exploration licenses, while China’s state-owned oil company CNOOC is also negotiating with the Cambodian government.
While Cambodian energy officials have so far refused to put a figure on the country’s oil reserves, the World Bank recently estimated Cambodia’s total offshore potential at up to two billion barrels.
The discovery of oil, as well as millions of cubic meters of natural gas, has raised hopes of an economic re-birth for Cambodia, which is reeling after three decades of civil war.
While Cambodia’s economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the region, some 35% of the kingdom’s 14 million people still live in poverty, with nearly 50% of its national budget coming from foreign aid.