Sunday, November 18, 2007

Govt's prime role recommended in coal mining

NewAge, November 18, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

A reviewed coal policy provisionally prescribes government’s investment in the country’s upcoming sector as it states that private local or foreign firms engaged in mining have to go for partnering with the government.

The coal policy review committee Saturday adopted a proposal to this effect. Sidelining apex trade-body FBCCI proposal for encouraging private sector’s prime role in coal-sector development, the committee viewed that the government always has to be the lead agency and get the highest priority in this regard.

The committee, however, said for the sake of ensuring energy security, local private companies or foreign government or private companies could be invited through international bidding to invest and develop the coal sector.

‘But, in that case, the local private or foreign companies have to be a partner of the government agency and their share have to be offloaded through stock market for public participation,’ says the committee recommendation.

Former vice-chancellor of BUET Professor Abdul Matin Patwari presided over the committee meeting at Petrobangla office.

Professor Nurul Islam of the engineering university said, ‘Private sector, in no way, should be the leading agency in coal-development scheme.’

CPD executive director Professor Mustafizur, however, said the private sector should be given a significant role to play in the coal sector’s development as the government ‘has not got enough funds to invest’.

He also advocated for not imposing any bar on merger or acquisition of any company by another company as such practice is prevalent worldwide.

The committee suggested strengthening the existing mineral Bureau of Mineral Development as licensing authority so that it could efficiently deal with foreign and local companies in leasing out coal mines.

After a thorough reappraisal of the policy—against the backdrop of persisting outcry over coal-mining deals and methodologies—the committee also suggested canceling the existing provision about issuing licence to any individual. ‘The license should be issued to a company rather than a person,’ says the expert panel in its suggestion.

They also suggested adopting a provision for leasing out coal fields through competitive bidding process and selecting the bidder who will give the highest and best proposal in terms of royalty and technicality.

In the existing rule there is a provision for fixing 5-6 per cent royalty for government while the last draft coal policy cited about 16-17 per cent royalty.

The committee emphasised setting up of coal-based power plants in the rural areas for the development of rural economy and poverty alleviation, now substantial reserves of the mineral resource have been found in the country’s northern districts.