Don’t blame the miners, the problem is our corrupt leaders

By Professor  Roman Grynberg* 

I now live in Botswana. It is the great mainstream counter-example to the argument that mining is inherently destructive. Botswana exports one third of the world’s diamonds. It is hardly what I would call a great example of good government despite what the World Bank says,  but it is a good deal better (or at least was in the first 30 years of mining) than what I have seen in PNG or other resource rich countries in the islands region.

The reason is political- the elite here has reinvested the massive diamond reserves in the infrastructure and education of the country. You can see the diamonds in the roads, the schools, the dams, and the hospitals.

In defense of PNG, it does not nor never had anything like the huge Jwaneng diamond mine here in Botswana. To dig out one dollar of diamonds costs roughly 10 cents. It is the richest piece real estate on earth. The government cut an OK deal with De Beers and makes billions every year.

The elite in the mineral rich Pacific countries may have had many friends to spend and abuse the mineral and forestry resources on but they had a choice to use those resources with some wisdom or to squander them. They chose the latter and in Botswana, while they were very imperfect and made many mistakes but they did not steal, misappropriate, mismanage the mineral wealth on a massive scale.

In the end of course it will make little difference because once the diamonds are gone the wealth that was generated will not likely be sustainable and now there is evidence that the new generation of the Botswana elite is not behaving like the older generation. Corruption is growing and becoming more prevalent.

The difference between countries that have succeeded and failed ultimately rests with the quality of their ruling elite and the decisions they make. Generally speaking mining has had an awful track record in the developing world because governments have abused this wealth. Those countries with a genuinely developmental elite have prospered (eg Malaysia) and those with a parasitic elite (eg Philippines) that does not do anything but steal from its people see the non-renewable wealth of the nation in the bank accounts of the rulers.  This cannot be blamed on mining or logging per se but the decisions of those who rule.

*Senior Research Fellow, Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis

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11 Comments

Filed under Corruption, Papua New Guinea

11 responses to “Don’t blame the miners, the problem is our corrupt leaders

  1. j kross

    Aaah Roman G. Nice knowing where you are now. I’ve been on this site expresing those views in my own way for some time but emotional environmentalism often gets in the way of our having a balanced discussion towards resolving our issues.
    As many would agree, it’s our government that needs to improve its performance in the distribution of goods and services equitably for all PNGeans from mine-derived revenue with increased participation in resource development. Right now, as you may have noticed, the future is bleak in that respect.

    Cheers.

  2. WIllie Namrinia

    Cut the nonsense J. Kross. You don’t come close to expressing yourself like Professor Gryncross and never will. You THINK you have the answers and that anyone who criticizes the mines are emotional environmentalists. Ya know what – give me those environmentals – what’s wrong with emotion rather than people who are so far up their butts.

    • j kross

      Get the Professor’s name right, Willie!

      Neither you nor environmental activism have the answers. The University of Protest, yea been there but couldn’t live with the insanity, so I moved on.

  3. Matthew Ipidari

    WIllie Namrinia
    You certainly do not appear to have any “answers”.
    A lot of the people who are critical of Mining are so from an emotional rather than a science based position.
    I think mining in PNG is good because it means that tax payers in other countries wikk, one day, not have to pay for PNG’s health, infrastucture and other essential development costs.
    After 30 years of floundering as a so called “Independant State” its about time this became a reality.
    Australian taxpayers alone have to shell out over 2 billion Kina a year to support PNG and its people.
    Environmentalist ofter use fear as a tool to achieve their outcome, namely, the fear or the unknown and just plain untruths and lies and to some extent that is evident in the manner in which Tiffany Nongoor has manipulated her clients in this matter, assisted by some Australians who have poked their nose into the matter.
    There have been pleny examples of that in recent times.
    Emotion is NOT a form of insanity.
    Emotion IS a form of insanity.
    Science IS a form of logic.

  4. j kross

    We need to separate environmentalism with sound enviropnmental management based on facts, analysis and existing DSTP experience in PNG. That hardly happens here as hype and emotion take over the stage. Environmental catastrophism associated with DSTP is overstated and stalls progress in all aspects. We need to accept the court’s decision and work together for a balanced outcome for all people. My argument has always been for the government to fight for a better share of revenue, with good governance, equal destribution, and sound environmenral management – not the religious bit, going overboard and over the top scaremongering.

  5. knoxx

    I believe we have overlooked a simple fact that emotions influence decisions people make in their day to day activities on planet earth. Animals also show these emotions in their relationships and day to day activities, not forgetting the tiny microorganisms in nature. You cannot separate emotions from your decision, whether it is policy base decision or faith base decision, emotions are involve anyhow. Emotions influence all aspect of human decision in government, society, religion, family, and individually. Without emotion, one is no longer a living organism, but a man made machine.
    When we try to argue against involving emotions we overlook the fact that the key players of public policies, those who frame environmental issues in PNG, to be addressed by current government legislations often exert an enormous amount of influence over the entire process through their personalities, personal interests, political affiliations, and so on. The bias is extenuated by the players’ emotions involved. The final outcome of the process, as well as its implementation, is therefore not as effective as that which could result from a purely rational process.
    If we want to talk about good government policies, then talk about them, and not try to blame religion or our Melanesian way for the emotions that are expressed here.

  6. Howard

    ” Those countries with a GENUINELY developmental elite have prospered (eg Malaysia) and those with a PARASITIC elite (eg Philippines) that does not do anything but steal from its people see the non-renewable wealth of the nation in the bank accounts of the rulers. THIS CANNOT BE BLAMED ON THE MINING or logging per se but the decisions of those who rule.

    he ral question for each citizen of PNG goes to the question of holding their government accountable for their generational development.

  7. j kross

    Knoxxx. Emotion is when science is misused, sensationalised and foisted upon people to an extent where their reaction is based on fear of the unknown as manipulated by the idealists whose aim is to shut down any form of progress. Rationality is completely ignored. The risk element of any project which can be managed with proper and rigorous planning has no place in an emotionally charged atmosphere where mining is painted as evil. Religion is when certain groups impose their brand of thinking to silence critics and warn of catastrophic outcomes if a certain path is taken. It has nothing to do with peoples’ established religions.

  8. Howard

    Nothing in the Bible about Mining.

  9. Howard

    Someone out there at Nongoor Williams cannot accept the outcome of the litigation they have run and is attempting to incite hate amongst the communities toward Mining through the time honoured use of religion.
    It is really disgusting conduct.
    I guess Tiffany is feeling nervous about her own future given the pending appeal which is likely to be incredibly damaging and embarrassing to both herself and the Trial Judge….watch that space.
    I have a broad base or experience relevant to the role in Newmont as Land Administrator.

  10. knoxx

    J kross,
    Your notion of emotion and religion as manipulative tools in the hands of idealist to impart fear on people is not completely true. I believe the chemistry of fear (as with love) is more complicated than that; love or fear, as I see them, they are the most powerful emotions (energy), or motivational forces on earth, and they are responsible for every decisive outcomes throughout the history of human influence on earth. Fear of the unknown in scientific term is called uncertainty. Scientific knowledge is not perfect knowledge; there are marginal errors in it, yet science has learnt ways to live with these errors. From how I see, fear is foisted only when: 1. Knowledge and information becomes too complicated for the people to understand, 2. Good communication fails to satisfy uncertainty and establish confidence in the people, 3. truth is withheld from the people, 4. truth is rejected by the people, and etc. To blame idealist means to blame you and I because we are writing things on this site.
    What would you say if I define rationality here as; “your attempt to get your share of the riches by supporting destructive industries through rigorous planning and good management of waste at the expense of illiterate landholder”.

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