Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cambodia Introduces Energy Saving Measures

Cambodia's government has slashed the amount of fuel allocated for state vehicles by 10 percent as part of austerity measures to offset rising oil prices, a minister said Thursday.

The move was ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen - who also urged officials to refrain from unnecessary trips using state vehicles and to minimize electricity use in their buildings - said Finance Minister Keat Chhon after a National Assembly session.

The measure was deemed necessary to curb the outflow of much-needed hard currency from the country, and to reserve fuel for emergencies such as natural disasters, he said.

Hun Sen issued the order at a Cabinet meeting nearly two weeks ago, he said. It took effect immediately.

The total amount of fuel used by state vehicles was not immediately known.

"The whole country must save (fuel), but not so that ambulances also have to cease running. We are not letting this affect services necessary for the people's well-being," Keat Chhon told Parliament.

Cambodia has been hit hard by rising oil prices because the country relies entirely on imported oil, he said.

Since January, the retail price of fuel at the pump has risen by 18 percent, the minister said.

Rising oil prices have also led to a rise in smuggling from Vietnam and Thailand into Cambodia. A recent crackdown led to the seizure of about 1.5 million liters (396,269 gallons) of oil from smugglers, Keat Chhon said.

He said it was questionable whether the government would achieve its goal of 6.3 percent economic growth for the country this year because of the skyrocketing oil prices, which recently passed $70 per barrel.

Sluggish economic growth would also impede efforts to reduce poverty, Keat Chhon said.

Cambodia is one of Asia's poorest countries. More than 40 percent of its 14 million people live on less than $1 per day, and the country depends heavily on foreign aid for development.

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