Don’t let Riko Diq go to the dogs

If the govt is allowed its usual closed-door negotiations over this deal, we might as well give it to the Chileans!

Salman Latif January 17, 2011
The Riko Diq deal has created a lot of hue and cry. Thanks to some conscientious petitioners, the matter has come to into the limelight with the judiciary actively investigating the viability of the deal.

Dr Samar Mubarakmand's opinion over the issue has exposed what can be arguably regarded as one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of this nation. The Tethyan Copper Company (TTC), a conglomerate of companies, which claims to be undertaking the project in goodwill and bringing employment opportunities here, is currently the most probable candidate for getting the project. It had been sanctioned by both former President Musharraf’s regime and President Zardari’s officials.

Corruption's new milestone

The problem is that TTC’s goodwill is evident in the fact that when the deal was being brokered, it initially offered an insulting two per cent to the government. Eventually, the deal was struck at some 25 per cent, even if the motives for the official end were personal benefits and perks, having nothing to do with national economy.

According to the current estimates, the total worth of the gold and copper reserves lies at more than $500 billion. The deal brings Pakistan a paltry $165 million a year - whereas it could be actually some $2 billion if no outsourcing was being done. The intriguing part is that the TTC intends to transport the ores in their liquid form through an underground pipe which will bar anyone else from estimating the real amount being mined. The ores will then be transported to Chile where they will be chemically processed and made hefty profits from.

A miracle for the economy

The worst part in this entire saga is that a project worth billions of dollars that can immensely help Pakistan with its foreign debt, is going to the dogs simply because of an utter lack of will. Government officials seem to love closed-door negotiations where they can dump all the workload on someone and get millions in return, even if that’s peanuts compared to what could actually be earned. This ends all chances of the project contributing to the national economy. Not only that, it also removes a huge employment opportunity for the people of Balochistan.

According to experts, if the processing plant is placed within Pakistan, ideally near Riko Diq, quite like the Chinese plant at Saindak, this would provide thousands of employment slots to locals. This single project may become the start of a change in the fate and fortunes of Balochistan. But like always, it is being negotiated by the government in terms of the bumps in personal accounts of officials and the rest is left to be damned, exploited and enjoyed by a foreign company while leaving the locals, as usual, in tatters.

Let the Chileans have it

The question is not whether or not the judiciary will go against the deal. In all honesty, that barely changes things. Even if the Supreme Ccourt rules for the project to be domestically treated, if the government is not a willing partner, it will still go to the dogs. Hefty resources will be poured and then left to rot , and if that’s what will become of it - if the judiciary and civil institutions can only pursue things to an inconclusive end – they’d better be left as they are. Let the Chileans have it, I say!

Govt scams and the need for transparency

If, on the contrary, the case is pursued so that not only is the ruling extracted against the TTC party, but the government too is forced to work fully on the project with a proper accountability setup installed, then the pains are worth it.

A workable plan was proposed by former financial minister Shaukat Tareen. According to him, even if excavations are done by the government, a company could be hired only to install and process the ores, a service for which it can then be fairly paid. Considering our lack of both technical equipment and personnel, this could be a viable plan and would leave government with no more excuses.

This and similar other scams from the state require a monitoring authority which should overlook the transparency of the governmental projects being outsourced and approve them before they are quietly ticked off in a clandestine meeting.

The absence of such a body is doubly damaging since on one side, it results in losses of God-knows-how-many billions of dollars to the national economy, thanks to corrupt officials. And on the other, it earns us a bad reputation with prospective investors from abroad. If we want to become anything other than a degenerate, dwindling third world economy, it’s time we got serious about it.
WRITTEN BY:
Salman Latif A blogger who blogs at http://salmanlatif.wordpress.com/ and tweets @salmanlateef
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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COMMENTS (19)

imran | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend after reading all the material related to Reko Diq project, i am still confuse that how it is possible that a project of $3 trillion had been given to foreign company against against some millions............ dr samar mubarak mand is the only man who can save this project
Salman Latif | 9 years ago | Reply | Recommend To all cynic friends who have a knack of slamming Pakistan well on issues, thus gaining accolodes for qualified self-pity, here's the thing: 1 - If only you'd have the patience the entire article, you'd have known I never 'assumed' that pakistan has the technology pre-requisite for mining these available resources. And precisely that's why, towards the close of the article, I quotes Shaukat Tareen's statement, proposing hiring a non-local company for the technical expertise needed. What does intrigue me though is: why would do you guys, commenting eagerly on the post, not want an outsider company just to help in the project and not own it and give us peanuts in return? Pray, do tell me. 2- To all those 'mining experts' and 'resource management professionals' telling me to mind my business, here's my humble response: I never claimed any expertise in those domains. however, going by your logic, only a law expert can comment on law ministry's doing and if any of you guys talks about CJ or Supreme COurt, you'd be an assinine, unqualified person if you don't know all about the legal issues. Luckily, the yardstick you define here is, evidently, flawed and I can comment and opine over 'mining projects' when they are affecting national economy and leave a chronology of similar projects and misappropriations in the past. This is because the Riko Diq deal is not about just mining - it's about lot more! :)
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