On April 23, 2010, the Cambodian coalition, Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency (CRRT), co-hosted a roundtable discussion, “Transforming Natural Resource Wealth into a Source for Sustainable Growth and Democratic Development”, at which H.E. Dr. José Ramos-Horta, a 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and current President of Timor-Leste, was one of the key-note speakers.
Timor-Leste is widely recognized for the successful management of its oil and gas revenues, upon which approximately 80% of its economy relies without operating in mining. President Ramos-Horta spoke about his country’s development of natural resources, explaining various measures that the government of Timor-Leste has been taking to improve transparency, prevent corruption, and engage with communities – such as establishing checks and balances by putting the revenues of oil and gas through a budget process and not giving the government direct access to the revenues.
As a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Timor-Leste has passed a petroleum law to govern the management of its oil and gas resources and established a Petroleum Fund and Petroleum Fund Management Department charged with the responsible investment of petroleum revenue and accountable to the central bank. In addition to this, whenever the country wants to develop a strategy and plan for the nation, public consultation is required. When discussing the issue of government corruption, President Ramos-Horta admitted that Timor-Leste was still struggling with corruption, but stressed that the Minister and the Directors of any department that had corruption had a responsibility to stop it.
Dr. Phan Phalla, Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Economic Council of Cambodia, then took the floor. Dr Phalla compared Cambodia’s experience with natural resources to Timor Leste’s, highlighting the infancy of Cambodia’s mining and oil/gas industry, as well as its governing structure. He also spoke of what he perceives to be a major hurdle Cambodia must overcome in order to grow its mining, oil and gas industries: capacity limitations in terms of a shortage of engineers and infrastructure.
Over 200 participants attended the event, from government officials, civil society organizations, local and international non-government organizations, donors, the private sector, and university students.
Article reprinted with the permission of CRRT.