12-12-12: Is a blessing for ALL?
12-12-12: Is a blessing for ALL?
12-12-12(December 12th 2012) - This is the date set by the Cambodian government to start the country’s first oil production. And the raising question “12-12-12: a blessing for ALL?” built the motto of a related youth forum on Cambodia’s oil and gas resources held on August 29th in Phnom Penh. The aim of the meeting –which was partly funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and organized by the Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP) - was to impart knowledge on national-level processes of oil and gas revenue management to young Cambodians and to widen the discussion on this topic in the public. Around 460 students, youth organizations’ activists and young people interested in the topic gathered, when Cheang Sokha, executive director of YRDP opened the event at the National Institute of Education.
Mrs. Korn Din Ravy, guestspeaker from the UNDP, was markedly impressed by the large attendance of young people. In her lecture, she referred to the book “Escaping the ResourceCurse”, which was published in Khmer language last year. She reflected three main issues, which are highlighted in the volume: The role of the government in clearing the pathway of a country’s extractive industries sector, the capability of revenues to reduce inequalities in a society and, especially, the importance of a transparent oil and gas extraction economy: “If you want to get the maximum benefits out of existing oil resources, transparency is absolutely crucial.”
For H.E Dr. Cheam Yeap, Chairman of the Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit Commission of the National Assembly, the key to an efficient management of Cambodia’s oil and gas revenues are clear and strong policies: “We need to prepare oil and gas taxation laws as part of an efficient and transparent legal framework. There further should be carried out some modifications on the existing laws and regulations governing the information of national revenues from oil and gas.” To support this process, he strongly recommends the close collaboration with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). EITI is a coalition of governments, companies, civil society groups, investors and international organizations working on the establishment of common standards and legal bases with the goal of using commodity revenues for a nation’s collective good.
The young audience was eager to learn more about the issue and asked a lot of critical questions to the speakers during the later discussion. Unfortunately, there was no government representative among the panelists, so that some questions remained unsolved. Overall, the large attendance can be seen as a proof of Cambodian students’ and young people’s will to participate in the process of shaping the country’s management of oil and gas revenues. Even many students who were not officially invited came to the forum, because they were curious to know the meaning of 12-12-12.
In the end, it stays unclear whether the start of oil and gas production in Cambodia could mean a blessing for them and the nation itself. Nonetheless, events like this are vital steps in supporting young people’s efforts to take an active part in this development.