Mine or Mire?

Editorial

The recent discussion in parliament to hand over gypsum mining to the State Mining Corporation has literally whisked up some serious dust and discussion. The question here is why should the mines be nationalized without a proper, even maybe, right rationale? What is the reason behind? We know that mining is one area in which the private sector had been doing pretty well not to mention the hefty taxes they have been contributing to the country’s coffer.

Why then is the state infringing (once again) into the hitherto domain of the private sector which is already on the verge of ventilating in all aspects? Why can’t the state for once leave the room open for the private sector to thrive and breathe? Or are they hell-bent on strangulating the life off “the engine of economic growth?” If the authorities base their argument of nationalizing the mines on environmental impact, they should frame, implement and monitor stringent rules to minimize damage to environment.

If they are concerned that the private sector is benefitting only a few rich people who seem to be ripping off the benefits, they should make tax payment a more serious issue and increase taxes (And it is not as if private mining companies have not been paying taxes all these years). And this is where the local communities also come in. If the government is concerned about the rich-poor divide, the dividends could be ploughed back to the local communities through community ownership and shareholding. The local government could facilitate it and the funds invested in community development including infrastructure.

We also know that till now private mines have been paying auction fees. Will the SMCL also fish out the required fees? This needs to be taken into account. Long story cut short, instead of perceiving a long-term vision, the authorities are once again repeating the narrative of driving the private sector to a slow but steady death. This has happened several times before and this is happening now. For example, there are state owned enterprises which are duplications of others in the private sector with similar roles, responsibilities and mandate.

State-owned media get subsidies and government advertisements while private media suffers at the gallows. The civil service has all the perks and benefits to retain the cream of the crop while the fact is only a small percentage of it makes up the national work force and as usual private sector employees get second-hand treatment. Why, and we should ask ourselves seriously, why are we killing the sector that could do miracles for our economy and development? Apart from a few start up competitions, the winners of who fade away into oblivion within no time, there is nothing concrete being done for the private innovators and enterprises which absorb the highest number of employees.

The private sector is neglected, bruised and abused. And this current move of the powers in the arena to nationalize the mining sector if it comes through will be a blow below the belt for the private sector. Right now, the adoption of the Mines and Minerals Act has been deferred after discussion. We just hope that the leaders and those in elected positions act prudently in this matter, taking into account the fact, that given too less opportunities and scope, the private sector, is in danger of fizzling out and this will lead to everything but a vibrant economy.

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