Friday, October 5, 2007

Proposals of Tata, Asia Energy have to wait

NewAge, October 4, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Decisions on investment proposals of Tata Group and Asia Energy are set to take some more time due to confusion over gas reserves and absence of coal policy, finance adviser Mirza Azizul Islam said on Wednesday. ‘We are giving wrong signal to foreign investors as we cannot decide on investment proposals of Tata and Asia Energy,’ he said to reporters at his planning ministry office after a meeting with a visiting Asian Development Bank executive.

The long-pending investment proposals came up for discussion at the meeting with Kunio Senga, ADB director general for South Asia, who is now in Dhaka. The Manila-based development bank offers Bangladesh assistance in developing coal sector amid differences of opinion among Bangladesh’s mining experts and conservationists over the mining method— whether it will be open-pit or underground. The debate led to a bloody outrage in Phulbari coalmine area last year. The finance adviser said the government will settle the Asia Energy issue once the coal policy is formulated.

Meanwhile, the UK-based mining company has expressed its willingness to start renegotiations with the government on Phulbari coalmine development. ‘We’ve told them that we will seriously look into the terms and conditions for the negotiations after finalisation of national coal policy,’ he said.

About the long-drawn-out $3 billion investment proposals of Indian conglomerate Tata, the adviser said it is a complicated matter and the gas reserve issue is closely linked to it. ‘As the terms and conditions have a provision for ensuring uninterrupted gas supply for several years, we’ll have to assess our actual gas reserve as there are several findings in this regard, and we’re not sure which one is correct,’ Aziz said.

He also discussed with the ADB executive matters relating to recent floods and post-flood rehabilitation. Aziz said the government formed a committee headed by the planning secretary to assess the flood damages and rehabilitation needs. ‘Rough estimates suggest the flood damages will be within $200 to $250 million,’ he told a questioner. ‘After the finance adviser’s visit to Manila, we realised that the flood in Bangladesh was severe and we formed a team for needs assessment,’ Kunio Senga said after the meeting. ‘Hopefully, we’ll be able to provide assistance for flood rehabilitation,’ he said without giving any figure.