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October 11, 2019

Bad ranking


October 11, 2019

According to news reports, Pakistan’s ranking in the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF) has further dropped by three notches and now stands at 110th out of total of 41 surveyed economies of the world. This fact alone is going to keep any foreign investor from investing in the Reko Diq copper and gold mines. As is known, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has announced a huge award of $5.976 billion against Pakistan in the Reko Diq case. We do not have the money to pay the TCC. Furthermore with each passing day the fine is going up. The TCC has the experience and the money, $3.2 billion, to develop this large-scale mine. The government of Pakistan neither has the experience nor the money. There was a report that the government was considering to involve Pakistani investors. However, it was only recently that leading businessmen had a meeting with the COAS complaining of tough business conditions. One cannot see these businessmen investing in Reko Diq. Also it would be very difficult to find bureaucrats to head and manage the project, considering that most are afraid that they would be nabbed by NAB even if there is a whiff of corruption. Even if we found another foreign investor, where would we find $6 billion to pay the TCC?

Therefore it would be advisable for the government of Pakistan to negotiate with the TCC and give them the mining lease for two of the 15 blocks on which they had carried out exploration. The terms and conditions could be debated in parliament and any doubts raised could be clarified, especially how the copper and gold is separated from the ore. Many would be surprised to know the copper and gold is extracted by heating the ore to over 1000 degrees centigrade. There is no large size smelter presently in Pakistan. Instead of wasting any more time , the TCC should be asked to return and start work. This would be the easiest and quickest way to pay the fine and start earning foreign exchange. In the meanwhile, Pakistani engineers and workers would learn the nitty-gritty of large scale mining and in the future we would see Pakistani mining companies working in Reko Diq.

Syed Hussein El-Edroos


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