Category Archives: Corruption

Labor plans to force Australian mining companies to disclose taxes paid overseas

Labor says it will make large Australian oil, gas and mining companies disclose the taxes they are paying to governments in every country, including Australia. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Exclusive: Mandatory reporting regime would apply to large Australian oil, gas and mining companies working overseas

Gareth Hutchens | The Guardian |30 October 2017

A Shorten Labor government would force Australian mining companies working overseas to disclose the taxes they are paying to foreign governments to extract their minerals.

The mandatory reporting regime would apply to large Australian oil, gas and mining companies, and be designed to ensure that communities in countries such as Papua New Guinea understand how many tax and royalty payments they are receiving and for which mining projects.

Labor says it wants Australia’s resource companies to be “good corporate citizens” and to maintain transparent accounting practices that combat corruption.

It says many of Australia’s neighbours, including Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Nauru, have multibillion-dollar resource projects that are operated by foreign multinationals but are home to some of the poorest people in the world.

Labor will announce on Tuesday an “extractive industries transparency plan” that will require large Australian companies to disclose the taxes they are paying to governments in every country, including Australia, and for every mining project.

Large companies shall be defined as a company that meets at least two of three criteria:

  • Total assets exceeding $50m
  • Annual turnover exceeding $100m
  • The average number of employees exceeds 250

A single or series of taxes and related payments within a financial year would have to be disclosed if the payments were worth at least $150,000.

Payments to be disclosed include: taxes on income, production or profits; royalties; dividends (except where the dividend is paid to a government as an ordinary shareholder); fees including licence fees, rental and entry fees; signature, discovery and production bonuses; production entitlements (such as profit resources) and payments for infrastructure improvements.

The scheme has been costed by the parliamentary budget office at $2.2m over four years. Between 80 and 100 companies would be affected. Subjected companies would be required to begin reporting payments to governments from 1 July 2020.

A multi-stakeholder committee would be established to help the government implement the reporting regime, including defining project-level reporting and establishing an online reporting mechanism to ensure public transparency.

Labor says the legislation would include equivalency provisions so companies captured by other jurisdictions due to cross listing on stock exchanges would only be required to produce one report. The scheme has been modelled on the extractive reporting regime in the UK.

Matt Thistlethwaite, the shadow assistant minister for Treasury, will announce the plan on Tuesday in a speech to the Australian Council for International Development’s national conference in Melbourne.

“Currently Australian companies do not meet world’s best practice for transparency and accountability,” he will say. “Labor is determined to change this.”

Mal Larsen, Oxfam Australia’s mining and extractives policy adviser, has welcomed the policy, saying he has been calling for something like this for a long time.

“This policy could help lift people out of poverty,” Larsen told Guardian Australia. “Australia would join the growing list of countries around the world that require large companies to reveal how much tax is being paid, in which country and for which mine.

“This sort of disclosure will allow the public to hold companies accountable for how much tax they pay and governments for how they spend it.

“Disclosure of tax payments is an emerging international standard. It is key to driving out corruption and building community faith that mining taxes are being spent on essential services like health and education.”

In May 2016 the Turnbull government announced Australia planned to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an international standard for increased transparency and accountability in the oil, gas and mining sectors.

It will require Australia to disclose information on taxes and other payments made by companies to the Australian government as well as other information such as licences, contracts, production and exports.

Larsen says Labor’s policy goes further because it would require Australian companies to disclose the payments they are making to foreign governments, not just to Australia’s government.

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High corruption risks in several areas: Mining Report

Cedric Patjole | PNG Loop | October 26, 2017

A Transparency International PNG Country Report has revealed high corruption risks in several areas of the Mining Licences Process.

The report, which was launched today, has highlighted key areas that need to be addressed urgently to minimise the risk of corruption.

The report comes from TIPNG’s participation in a global research initiative called the Mining for Sustainable Development (M4SD) program.

TIPNG says the need to identify risks in the mining licence process is because the awards process is the start of the mining value chain and any effects of corruption there will be passed along, eventually impacting the country’s sustainable development.

TIPNG Chairman, Lawrence Stephens, said regulatory systems should be improved so that the wealth generated from the mining sector should be used for the welfare of Papua New Guinea.

“Through reports like this that we can start to make a difference, start to assist people whose job it is to try to make sure all the people of this country benefit,” he said.

The high risk areas highlighted in the report include cross-institutional capacity; human resources of regulatory agencies; coherence of feasibility studies and MOAs, lack of a national geospatial agency; consultation, representative bodies and associated business entities; lack of CSR reporting requirements; and risks concerning women, vulnerable persons and marginalised groups.

Present at the launch was Mineral Resources Authority Managing Director, Phillip Samar, who said some of the issues highlighted are not new to them but are ongoing.

However, he said the MRA will continue to have dialogue and work with TIPNG to address the issues raised.

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Rio Tinto charged with fraud by US authorities

BBC | 18 October, 2017

British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and two of its former executives have been charged with fraud in the US, accused of hiding losses by inflating the value of African coal assets.

It bought the Mozambique assets in 2011 for $3.7bn (£2.8bn) and sold them a few years later for $50m.

The mining company has said it will “vigorously defend” the charges.

The firm was also fined £27m by UK authorities for breaching disclosure rules over the African coal purchase.

Both the US and UK actions relate to the Mozambique investment made by the mining firm six years ago.

A lawsuit filed in the US accuses Rio Tinto, its former chief executive Thomas Albanese and ex-chief financial officer Guy Elliott of failing to follow accounting standards and company policies to accurately value and record the assets.

Thomas Albanese, former chief executive of Rio Tinto

The US Securities and Exchange Commission argues that soon after the deal was completed, Rio Tinto learned that the projects would produce less coal, and of a lower quality, than expected.

“Rio Tinto’s top executives allegedly breached their disclosure obligations and corporate duties by hiding from their board, auditor, and investors the crucial fact that a multi-billion dollar transaction was a failure,” SEC Enforcement Division co-director Stephanie Avakian said in a statement.

By making misleading claims the Anglo-Australian miner – one of the world’s largest – was able to raise $5.5bn from US investors, the SEC said.

Rio Tinto said it “intends to vigorously defend itself against these allegations”.

The firm added in a statement it believes the “SEC case is unwarranted and that, when all the facts are considered by the court, or if necessary by a jury, the SEC’s claims will be rejected.”

As a result of the charges, Guy Elliott has resigned from his new job as non-executive director of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

In a statement, Shell said: “We hope he satisfactorily resolves those proceedings and, that in that event, he would like to be considered for rejoining the Board.”

Largest ever UK fine

The miner separately reached a settlement with UK regulators for disclosure failures tied to the Mozambique investment.

It agreed to pay the Financial Conduct Authority £27 million to settle claims that it breached accounting rules in connection with the African coal assets.

The FCA said the fine is the largest ever imposed on a firm for a listing-rules breach.

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Frieda river mining company in corruption investigation in China

Guangdong Rising Assets Management is under investigation for a series of bad investments including the purchase of PanAust and the Frieda river mining rights. Four people are already being prosecuted for corruption and now the former Chairman is in the spotlight over losses of more than $1 billion

Chinese probe big mine loss

Rowan Callick | The Australian | October 16, 2017

The former chairman of a Chinese state-owned enterprise has been handed over to prosecutors for investigation after the company’s investments in several Australian mining ventures lost more than $1 billion.

Li Jinming, who chaired Guangdong Rising Assets Management, which is owned by Guangdong province, was earlier expelled from the Communist Party following an investigation that began in 2014 over losses that the disciplinary inspection team described as “dreadful”.

The company was established 17 years ago with $2bn capital, the South China Morning Post reported, and it began investing in Australia after the Global Financial Crisis pushed down asset and commodity prices.

It acquired, through different subsidiaries, lead-zinc producer Perilya for $45.5 million, coal producer Caledon Resources for $500m, copper and gold company PanAust — with a massive prospect awaiting commitment in Papua New Guinea at Frieda River — for $180m, and rare earths producer Northern Minerals for $60m,

It also paid $15m for a large stake in gold and base metal explorer Hawthorn Resources.

Leading Chinese financial website Caixin reported that most of these deals had since made losses, with calls on further capital from GRAM.

Li Zezhong, who worked for GRAM for 11 years, ultimately as president, was then appointed mayor of Zhuhai, a thrusting city of 1.5 million on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, just north of Macau.

It was his successor at GRAM who urged a deepening of the investigation into the company’s management.

Last month it was announced that Li Zezhong was being investigated for “serious violations of party discipline,” believed to relate to his time at GRAM.

Four colleagues from his time at the company are already being prosecuted for corruption.

Caixin has reported that investigators are also seeking to interview Liu Facai, now living in Australia. He chaired the committee responsible for all state assets in Guangdong province when he led a team to Australia 11 years ago to explore investments in mineral projects.

Caixin said that he and his son, who was already living in Australia, introduced GRAM to firms in which the company went on to invest.

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Grasberg mine’s riches still a distant glitter for Papuan communities

Panorama from high up at the Grasberg gold and copper mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. Photo by Richard Jones/flickr.

Hans Nicholas Jong | Mongabay | 13 October 2017

  • Through its local subsidiary, US-based Freeport-McMoRan operates the world’s largest and most profitable gold mine in Indonesia’s Papua province.
  • Changes to Indonesia’s mining laws earlier this year raised hopes that Papua’s indigenous people might finally get a stake in the mine.
  • With negotiations between the government and the company snagging on key issues, activists say these hopes may be premature.

High hopes that the world’s biggest gold mine will finally bring meaningful benefit to the community for which it has for decades been a source of contention have been deflated as negotiations hit a wall.

Freeport McMoRan Inc. (FCX) and the Indonesian government are currently hashing out the details of a long-term agreement for an extension of the company’s contract to operate the giant Grasberg gold and copper mine in Papua province, due to expire in 2021.

Freeport announced in August that it had agreed to divest a 51 percent stake in its Indonesian subsidiary, PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), in which it currently holds a 90.64 percent stake, following sustained pressure by the government to reform a mining sector long seen as not doing enough to benefit local communities or contribute to the national economy.

As part of broader changes to Indonesia’s mining law, the government has required that all mining firms build smelters in-country; convert their existing contracts into more flexible permits; and, for those with a foreign majority shareholder, divest a 51 percent stake in their operations to local partners within a decade of the mines coming into production.

Freeport’s announcement was cheered by Indonesians, many of whom believe the country has been getting the short end of the stick in its business dealings with foreign miners.

The indigenous inhabitants of Papua, in particular, welcomed the announcement, hoping the redrawn contract would finally address the impact of the company’s mining operations on the local community and improve their welfare.

But as negotiations between Freeport and the government stall over the terms of the divestment, the role Papuans will play in determining the future of the mining project is once again shrouded in uncertainty.

A map of the Grasberg mine in Papua. Image by AK Rockefeller/flickr.

Sharing the wealth

In 2016 alone, Freeport’s Indonesian operations generated $3.8 billion in revenue for the parent company. Yet despite having the world’s most profitable gold mine, Papua remains Indonesia’s poorest province, where 28 percent of the people live below the poverty line. It also has some of the worst infant mortality and literacy rates in Asia.

To ensure that some of the mine’s revenues trickle down to Papuans, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan has said that up to 10 percent of PTFI’s shares should be reserved for the Papuan government and indigenous Papuan people.

But Freeport has balked at the details of the government’s plan to manage the divestment. In a letter dated Sept. 28, the company expressed strong disagreement with the valuation, timing and structure put forward by the government.

The government has proposed acquiring a majority stake in PTFI by the end of 2018, but Freeport wants the divestment to take place in stages over a period of several years. It also wants the first batch of shares to be offered publicly through the stock exchange, rather than allocated directly to the government.

The price is another sticking point. Last year Freeport offered to divest a 10.64 percent stake in PTFI for $1.7 billion, which would give a valuation of around $8.1 billion for a 51 percent stake. Jonan, however, has called for a much lower figure. Conflating FCX’s market capitalization on the New York Stock Exchange and its share of revenue from PTFI, the minister argues that the fair value for a 51 percent stake in the Indonesian operator should be $4 billion.

Any hopes for immediate benefits as a result of the divestment, particularly the promised 10 percent stake for Papuans, have diminished as a result of the impasse.

Maryati Abdullah, the national coordinator of mining sector watchdog Publish What You Pay Indonesia, said such disagreements should have been foreseen. “The contentions in the negotiation process were predictable. So any claims of victory after the divestment agreement [in August] were premature, given that there are still many details that haven’t been agreed upon,” she told Mongabay. “As long as there’s no written agreement, there’s a high chance that things could still change.”

A woman from the Korowai tribe, who live in southeastern West Papua in the Indonesian Province of Papua. Photo by Mari/flickr.

‘Our nature is damaged’

Community leaders in Papua argue they should be involved in the ongoing negotiations, regardless of whether Papuans get a share in PTFI.

A group representing various indigenous tribes affected by PTFI’s mining operation met with Jonan last month to discuss the issue.

“We hope we will be involved in the negotiation of the details of the agreement and that a good deal will be given be to the local people,” said Odizeus Beanal, a representative of the Amungme tribe, whose highland home is where Grasberg is located. “Our hope in the future is for an agreement to be reached for indigenous people.”

Also affected by PTFI’s operations are the Kamoro, a lowland people whose ancestral territory is the site of Freeport’s mining town of Timika. The Amungme and Kamoro have traditionally subsisted on sustainable agriculture, fishing and hunting. But the opening of the mine in 1967 disrupted their lives, stripping them of their rights to 100,000 hectares (247,100 acres) of their ancestral lands. They have been further displaced and marginalized by migrants from elsewhere across Indonesia drawn to the mining boomtown.

Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), a state-funded body, said earlier this year that PTFI had never compensated the Amungme and the Kamoro as the original stewards of the land where it operates. It characterized Freeport’s concession as a land grab.

“The land that could be used to live on has been contaminated with chemicals,” Daniel Beanal, a Kamoro elder, told presidential staffers at a meeting earlier this year. “Our nature is damaged. The mountain is filled with holes. I’ve never received anything from Freeport.”

Beanal argued it would be best for PTFI to cease operations, a call echoed by another Kamoro elder, Nicolaus Kanunggok.

“Our aspiration is clear: to close and audit [PTFI] first. We’re not asking for a share, not even a single percent. Close the operation first, and then audit [them],” Kanunggok said.

The giant Grasberg open-pit copper and gold mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. US-based mining giant Freeport McMoRan, which operates the mine, was also granted an exemption from the 1999 Forestry Law. Photo by Alfindra Primaldhi/Wikimedia Commons

Audit findings

A recent report by Indonesia’s Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) identified a wide range of irregularities in PTFI’s operations and its current contract.

Eleven of the issues were attributed to weak management by the government, while 10 pointed to violations of regulations by PTFI. These include indications of reckless mining, and the dumping of mining waste into rivers, forests and the sea. An earlier review by the agency estimated the environmental damage from the company’s operations at 185 trillion rupiah ($13.7 billion).

PTFI spokesman Riza Pratama said the company manages its waste in accordance with the terms set out in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approved by the government in 1997. “We are operating in accordance with our mining contract and [mining waste processing and disposal] has been regulated in it,” he told Mongabay.

Noak Kapisa, the head of Papua’s environmental agency, said PTFI should pay for the environmental damage identified by the audit agency. “If the damage is done inside Freeport’s areas, then it has to fix it,” he told Mongabay. Kapisa also called on the government to revoke the company’s EIA, which is in the process of being renewed, if PTFI refuses to make amends for the environmental damage it has caused.

The BPK also found that Freeport had used 4,536 hectares (11,208 acres) of protected forest area without obtaining the proper permits, costing the government $20 million in lost fees between 2008 and 2015.

Riza declined to comment on this finding when asked by Mongabay.

View from the Grasberg open-pit copper and gold mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. Photo by Richard Jones/flickr.

Pitfalls and progress

As things stand, there is no guarantee of more environmentally sound mining operations once Freeport has relinquished a 51 percent stake in PTFI.

That’s because Freeport has insisted on retaining operational control of its subsidiary until 2041, even if the government holds the majority of PTFI shares. Should the miner get its way, Indonesia would have no leverage in the deal, according to PWYP Indonesia advocacy manager Aryanto Nugroho.

For instance, he argues, Freeport could refuse to pay dividends to the government by saying it needs the money to cover expenses like building a smelter, which it is required to do under the new mining law.

“Even if the government held the majority of shares, if FCX still retained operation control, what could we do? So there are traps like that,” Nugroho told Mongabay.

The government must ensure that Freeport pays all its obligations, including for environmental damage, before the divestment is done, says Henri Subagiyo, executive director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), an NGO.

“If the obligations are paid before the takeover, there won’t be many problems. But if the obligations [are held over until] after the takeover, then who would bear the burden?” Subagiyo told Mongabay. “If the government has the majority of shares, then the government would have the obligations [to pay for the damage]. If Papuans get a stake, they would bear the risk as well.”

Activists have urged the government to use the BPK’s findings as a basis in the negotiations with Freeport.

“These problems have to be probed further and discussed during the renegotiation process of Freeport’s mining contract,” said PWYP Indonesia’s Abdullah. “Environmental problems are no less important than other problems in the renegotiation, which are mainly financial, such as tax, divestment and the obligation to build smelters in Indonesia.”

President Joko Widodo has said the government is seeking a win-win solution as quickly as possible. But with neither side seeing eye to eye on the key issues, it remains unclear when the negotiations will conclude.

Additional reporting by Basten Gokkon.

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ABG claims of financial independence if mine reopens ridiculed

Nasioi Writer responds to Member for Kokoda, Rodney Osioco’s claims the Bougainville government will be financially self reliant if BCL is allowed to reopen the Panguna mine.

Mr. Osioco I can probably forgive you for being so naive and sentimental. Where and when is this extractive industry madness going to end. Your little baby government cannot even account for funding it gets from National Government which ends up in your private accounts as we are being told. Is this how you are going to manage the millions you get from mining and pay tit bits to the landowners who to this day have never been compensated adequately for loss of everything from environment, rivers, and land which is the source of their livelihood?

We are fed up with ABG preaching that agriculture, tourism is not enough to run the economy of Bougainville. Coming from a government that is wasteful with buying fleets and of cars and staying at expensive hotels, I find this hard to believe.

I wonder how much these politicians carrying out awareness are being paid? Isn’t this work suppose to be given to others to do? Maski giaman nabaut kisim allowance na mekim awareness.

The introduction of mining into our midst is causing so much confusion and division among the people who should be united to vote in the forth coming referendum. ABG’s push for mining with BCL at it’s helm is now being challenged by another player RTG which supposedly has the cash and elaborate plans to deal with issues ahead. I don’t support mining in any form or shape because already these companies are sprinkling cash this way and that. This is where corruption takes root if is not already eating away at ABG.

Opposition to Mining is mounting and I think it is time Hon. Osioco and his colleagues started to look at alternatives otherwise we are going to face another catastrophe at the hands of mining companies.

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Sovereign Wealth Fund Is Our Security

Barney Orere | Post Courier | August 22, 2017

Concepts such as Dutch Disease are risks that threaten macroeconomic stability and consequently the long term development of the economy. This requires a forceful and comprehensive response from Government at all levels.

Given the fact that there is heavy dependence on the non-renewable sector; that is, petroleum and minerals, the current generation arguably has clear obligations to ensure that the benefits from their exploitation is available to generations that will come later.

Of importance will be the manner in which the State manages the increase in economic activity and resulting fiscal flows. The implementation of large scale projects such as the PNG LNG in a small economy such as PNG poses considerable challenge in terms of macroeconomic management also.

To minimize the potential negative impact of the considerable increase in financial flows and economic activity on the national economy, the Government policy was to ensure that a Sovereign Wealth Fund structure was implemented in the lead-up to increase in fiscal flows.

A Government submission says that whilst PNG LNG Project forms the backdrop of the implementation of Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) in PNG, it was to be expected that the SWF, upon establishment, was likely to be the recipient of financial flows from a range of projects or sources.

The submission which had its cover page removed was found in a warehouse quite by chance. Although some progress could have been made on the SWF, the lack of conversation has prompted the matter to be brought out into the open and there are insights which, hopefully, will get the conversation going.

The idea behind a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) was to secure PNG’s future by putting away savings from major resource projects. Parliament passed the enabling law and five years later conversation on SWF needs to come out stronger.

Time has become of profound essence because earnings from PNG LNG will be flowing in a less than three years from now and without a SWF in place, where will we put the money?

The country is at a critical crossroad because without a management mechanism in place, the synergy effects of vast earnings in a small economy will be the cocktail for the dreaded Dutch disease.

What is more troubling than ever is the lucrative nature of SWF; the nation’s future security will need to be conducted at the most highest level of integrity and that means transparency and accountability. Hopefully this isn’t one of our greatest obstacles because we mess it up now and there’s nothing for future generations.

On February 22, 2012, Parliament passed the Organic Law on the Sovereign Wealth Fund; a high profile initiative that has the potential to be a significant contributor to the welfare of the people, stability and growth of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea for generations to come.

The statutory objectives of Sovereign Wealth Fund are:-

  • TO support macroeconomic stabilization,
  • TO support the development objectives of the Government, including long-term economic and social development, and,
  • TO support asset management in relation to assets accrued from natural resource revenue.

The SWF was to consist of:-

(a) A Stabilisation Fund, to manage the impact of fluctuation of mineral and petroleum revenues on the economy and on the national budget, and,

(b) A Development Fund, to provide definite and ongoing funding for economic and social development in accordance with the development plans of the Government.

The author/s of the submission noted that the organic Law on Sovereign Wealth Fund creates the following stakeholders to be involved in running the SWF:-

  • SWF Board to oversee the SWF (Section 16 of the Organic Law on SWF)
  • Minister responsible for Treasury matters to determine the investment mandate for the SWF board and receive and consider reports from the board (section 6),
  • SWF Appointment Committee to appoint members of the SWF board (section 22)
  • Independent Probity Auditor to consider probity issues associated with the operation of the SWF (section 39), and ,
  • Secretariat to assist with the operational aspects of the SWF (section 31).

Certain matters regarding the composition, functions and governance of each of these stakeholders are set out in the Organic Law. However, details of how these stakeholders will manage the SWF and interact with each other have not been fully provided for in the Organic Law.

Section 42 of the Organic law provides for regulations to be passed in future which are necessary to give effect to the Organic Law on SWF.

The submission recommended that in advance of the start of revenues being ready for deposit, the National Executive Council should take action to implement the Organic Law on SWF with the view to ensuring that it was fully operational prior to operations starting at the PNG LNG Project. To this end a working committee was suggested to take charge of implementing the Organic Law.

PNG has already made dozens of LNG shipments.

When the Post-Courier raised the dangers of Dutch disease in a feature, Treasury Secretary, Dairy Vele made a statement a day or two later, that tax revenue from the PNG LNG Project would not be seen until 2020 (or thereabouts). He took the trouble of explaining how complicated the project was and made no mention of proceeds from any shares that might be held in the project; only the tax component.

PNG borrowed about K14 billion to get the PNG LNG Project off the ground.

When Prime Minister Peter O’Neill took office after the 2012 General Election, he spoke of starting the Sovereign Wealth Fund but the conversation gradually faded as he got embroiled in the tussle over the Independent Commission Against Corruption and other legal squabbles that confronted him.

The aim of the Organic Law on SWF was the establishment of the appropriate structures for the management of PNG’s increased resource wealth.

We see now from the submission that we’re dealing with a very lucrative organization. But it is the decisions that will be made that will protect the future of PNG.

With the earnings from the PNG LNG coming up, as indicated by the Treasury, work on SWF must begin because there are still some outstanding bits and pieces to attend to. Time is of essence because this is the entry point for Dutch Disease to set in. We will have so much money to throw around we will wreak havoc in our small economy; that is the danger.

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