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Scrutiny
  
$1 trillion? Sure...
The US has announced the discovery of minerals apparently worth $1 trillion in Afghanistan – the IIPM Think Tank believes much of this made up value is balderdash and pure hogwash forwarded by the US
22/07/2010

Have you heard about the jungle gold digger who announced to the world that he’s found the biggest gold horde underground? Never? That’s not too surprising, as not even a sophomoric mercenary would make the mistake of letting the world onto El Dorado if he found it first – unless, of course, he didn’t find it and simply wanted to conjure one up in order to boast to grandma back home. Or, of course again, the protagonist in question were the conscientiously incorruptible and trustfully industrious United States.

If those adjectives sounded oxymoronic, that’s basically the simple crux of this article’s argument. The recent June 2010 announcement by the US geological survey – a Pentagon study, if anyone expected any less – that they have stumbled onto $1 trillion and beyond of “untapped” mineral deposits (ostensibly iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium) in Afghanistan reminds one of the Great Game that was played between the British and the Russians for gaining influence in central Asia in the early phase of the 19th century.

The US is an old hand at peddling such so called discoveries for its mutual convenience – or at not peddling them. During the period that US took over Iraq, did one wonder even once that the Bush regime never gave official confirmation of the oil reserves in Iraq that the US was directly controlling and extracting? Rarely, as it was a given fact that US will siphon off oil money to pay for its war expenses and claims. The truth is, in February 2010, Agence France Presse had already quoted Karzai brandishing a US Geological Survey report that Afghanistan had $1 trillion mineral reserves. The flop attempt at global media publicity went unnoticed then. Clearly, Pentagon’s spin doctors were not too impressed by the February achievement, and re-branded the effort, training Karzai to repeatedly mention that the reserves were between $1 trillion to, hold your grandma’s horses, $3 trillion!
There’re three reasons for the June 2010 re-branding of old news. First: when it comes to fragile governance, the Afghan government is already a top contender. It is today standing on legs largely because of foreign aid, which is over 70% of its budget. Undoubtedly, the announcement of this discovery will give Karzai – who has recently mended fences on his own terms with Obama – a new lifeline in his fragile political career, as he would be able to wishfully promise the mineral rich regions to tribal chiefs and Taliban representatives. Second: the announcement will give an excuse to the US to postpone their decision of withdrawing troops out of the country. Third: the US has been trying hard to figure out ways to attract foreign investment into the region. The announcement will jump start the proceedings. One can easily visualise deals being signed under pure promises and conjectures than on realistic data – leading to future litigation.

There is a huge downside for Afghanistan due to this announcement. Mineral and oil discovery announcements have led to social unrest in various countries; and Afghanistan is a country that is still struggling to come out of a war like condition. African nations like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Nigeria and Sudan saw a decade long violence and civil unrest after similar discoveries. An analysis of the top oil rich countries would show that around 10-12 nations in the top 50 list are unstable. For Afghanistan, the announcement would exacerbate the ongoing power politics. If on one hand the local clans, Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the likes will fight a bloodying conflict to tap these supposed resources to fund their anti-social missions, then on the other, China, which last year grabbed the Aynak copper mine in Logar, would leave no stone unturned to expand its influence over the region and country in particular.

All this is not to say that there are no reserves – of course, there are. But in all probability, only around 1/5th of what has been announced – which anyway would be exploited by US firms. It’ll take decades for other investing companies to realise they’ve been had. By then, Obama will be out of power, and Afghanistan will no more be a priority.

By:- Sray Agarwal
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