When the circumstances surrounding Rusal are carefully probed, a riddle emerges. Elusive are the solutions; many the questions.
First question: how does any company, which was so front-loaded with the rich incentives so characteristic of a bygone government’s easy largesse that breakeven is a struggle? It is neither unreasonable nor improper to ponder if this was yet not another instance of the double bookkeeping of creative accounting.
Each question ushers in one more intriguing brethren: how is it that these sophisticated investors, who negotiated and benefited from the state’s generosity have nothing to show for it? The Berbice River Bridge makes for another compelling case.
Question number two also comes in pieces: for a decade, this company operated virtually unhindered and it was allowed to do as it pleased: bargaining agents ignored and workers’ rights abrogated, and workers’ dignity assaulted.
While all of this occurred, where was government? Why did the then government conveniently and nonchalantly pretend not to know? Why were material issues impacting various tiers of this society quietly relegated to the back-burner? Something is not adding up here.
There are uncorroborated reports that local political operators have some vested interest in the enterprise that is Rusal. If accurate, this could provide an entrée into two of the mysteries that surround Rusal’s past and present swagger. The first was already asked, where was the government of Guyana during the years of excesses?
The second related question is: how is it that Rusal now has developed this disdain when the state is involved? Matters would add up if political powers (those with a financial dog in the pound) are using Rusal as a proxy to apply pressure: A company that was a sleeper is now exhibiting aggression that borders on the provocative and obnoxious in its interactions with today’s government.
To furnish context, companies such as Rusals can scan the globe for investment opportunities, with the richest net return being paramount. Where can the best bang for each invested dollar be realized? From where can the sweetest deal be squeezed in a hungry, jobless, investment starved, resources rich Third World?
Which government is believed to be pliable? To be weak? Or so dirty as to be easily manipulated? It was Rusal’s good fortune to encounter all of these ingredients in yesterday’s government.
Since this government took the reins of office, Rusal has transformed into the brutish Mr. Hyde, through one worker atrocity after another. The real Rusal is discovered.
Look where matters began and where they are currently. In the early days of Rusal’s arrival, there were the regular games embodied in political and corporate courtship, and with the regular promises flowing fast and furious.
First up: jobs – an easy sale for savvy incoming investors; and one sweet swallow for expectant homegrown politicians. Rusal did some of that. This was followed by talk (mostly of a pro forma variety) of infrastructure enhancement and a general spirit of good corporate citizenship.
In most situations, however, when examined closely and critically, these infrastructure works and the rest have proven to be akin to charitable scraps. Third, there were those solemn speeches to honour laws, local culture, and pious commitments to make the relationship work. Except that now, there are no such things manifested, and there is only unconcealed hostility and concentrated abuse delivered. Something is amiss; and commonsense, when exercised, should trace to other than industrial relations and profit roots.
Departure is the threat in an increasingly acrimonious partnership. Rusal was permitted to take the country hostage; now the mutilations surface.
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