Friday, August 14, 2009

The Great Tanzanian Gold Robbery

Finding gold or any other natural resource must be a mixed blessing. But when an American company finds 'vast' deposits of gold in Tanzania, the blessing should be completely unmixed. The American company will take as much as it can and pay as little in royalties, taxes, wages and any other costs.

For Tanzanians, on the other hand, it will be an unmixed curse. Another invasive multinational destroying the environment, creating a few badly paid and insecure jobs and putting enormous numbers of artisinal miners out of a job. They have seen it all before and will probably see it frequently until foreigners have stripped African countries of everything they can possibly use and destroyed even the things they can't use.

People who imagine that developed countries 'give' large amounts of aid money to developing countries should be aware that even larger amounts of wealth are extracted by multinationals that don't pay much in the country they do the extracting nor in the country where they are based.

It seems extraordinary that in a country of around forty million people, around half live below the poverty line, unable to get enough food or clean water to ensure their health and the health of their families. They need the most basic things for their very survival.

At the same time, rich, foreign 'investors' take virtually all the wealth Tanzania has in order to fulfil their need for gold, uranium, precious stones and things that are not in any sense important for survival. They will use much of the country's water and contaminate the water table and the surrounding lands.

I met an Australian who worked in the mineral exploitation industry in Tanzania and he denied that people were exploited or badly paid. However, he also claimed that most highly skilled workers in the industry were not Tanzanian because, according to him, there were not enough trained people in the country. Yet, he didn't seem to see the connection between extracting most of the country's wealth and that country being unable to pay for adequate education for its citizens.

Apparently, the Tanzanian government is putting together a bill so that the state has a 10-15% stake in future mining operations. It's about time, but why don't they enable Tanzanians to do the mining? At present, there are all sorts of incentives for foreigners to come into the country and take what they can get but indigenous mining operations in Tanzania do not receive the same incentives.

Tanzania's minister for Energy and Minerals boasts about the climate for investors in Tanzania. How about the climate for Tanzanians? Most of them are still poor and many are worse off as a result of the mining operations that have been taking place in the country. The amount of money being spent on education, health, infrastructure and other basic needs is a pittance compared to the wealth leaving the country and going into the pockets of very rich people.

Tanzanians are being robbed, with the connivance of Tanzanian politicians. Sphere: Related Content

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