Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Too many expats at San Cristobal? (and then some politics)

Admittedly, it’s been way too long since I last posted, just busy in general, and I’ve been devoting my little spare online time to my other portal, the one I want to turn into a “think tank” of sorts way down in the future.

Anyhow, there is a news item I wanted to share with you:

It seems that some miner’s syndicates in Potosí have asked for an official review of Apex Silver’s hiring and staffing practices for the San Cristobal project, alleging that almost 40 percent of the current labor force is composed of foreigners (expatriates). The ministry of Mining and Metallurgy, Dionisio Garzón [profile link here, ES] has agreed to begin the official inquiry for this and the Kori Chaca gold project.

According to ERBOL’s press report, current regulations allows for only up to 15 percent foreign-born employee quota. With the additional requisite that such employees have specializations inexistent in Bolivia.

Now, if you ask me, 15 percent is a decent quota for foreign personnel, especially in mining. But when it comes to new and rather large projects such as San Cristobal I’d settle for a Saudi style policy, where foreign personnel numbers can start on over 35 percent of the labor force but are decreased at a constant rate (5 percent per year in this case) as the project progresses. This policy allows for training of the domestic staff to take place and creates managerial talent among local hires. As far as San Cristobal is concerned, I’ll try to find official figures to publish.

On the political realm, we’re just a few weeks away from election, and for your reading enjoyment, you may want to check out the different “Programs” the parties have presented, Miguel Centellas’ comments on why Evo Morales won't debate Tuto Quiroga, and finally a sample of “dirty war” –style TV spots (unfortunately only available at a site owned by some folks I don’t like too much), now that I think about it they pale in comparison to some of the stuff that floated around during the Bush/Kerry presidential race.

Friday, November 11, 2005

From The Mailbox: "Porqué Tuto debe ser presidente"

A brief, mass-email I got this morning. It seems it has been published by Bolpress since:
Porqué Tuto debe ser presidente
Carlos Benavides Gisbert

Seamos claros. Las próximas elecciones tendrán únicamente a dos contendores. Tuto y Evo. Sólo uno de estos dos llegará a la presidencia en enero próximo. Ahora bien, sin el ánimo de efectuar un análisis político muy profundo - porque analista político no soy - y simplemente haciendo uso del más común de los sentidos, el sentido común, comparto con ustedes cinco razones por las cuales creo que Tuto debe ganar estas próximas elecciones.

Primera. Porque Tuto Quiroga no es un líder sindical, es un líder político. Porque utiliza el razonamiento para discernir que le conviene mas al país. Porque tiene la suficiente prudencia para representarnos dignamente fuera del país. Porque su discurso no incluye gratuitas satanizaciones contra el neoliberalismo y la globalización -reacuérdese que sólo los países que se han abierto al comercio internacional han atenuado la pobreza-. Tampoco necesita repartir mensajes antiimperialistas ante las multitudes para lograr su aprobación. No se opone al ALCA por oponerse. No requiere insultar al FMI ni al Banco Mundial para quedar bien con nadie.

Segunda. Porque Tuto Quiroga tiene el expertis para administrar un Estado. Porque para administrar un Estado no basta haber logrado alguna popularidad. La administración de un Estado debe estar en manos de Estadistas o de personas que hayan tenido experiencia en el manejo de la cosa pública. Un dirigente sindical podrá manejar un gremio, más no un país.

Tercera. Porque Tuto Quiroga no tendrá que pagar facturas. Para empezar no tendrá que rescindir unilateralmente los contratos con las empresas petroleras y menos confiscar sus bienes, originando incalculables obligaciones para el TGN. No tendrá que legalizar la producción excedentaria de la hoja de coca, incumpliendo acuerdos internacionales suscritos por el país. No tendrá que entregar tierras a los "Sin Tierra", legalizando el avasallamiento. No tendrá que reducir los salarios de los burócratas públicos para equilibrar la balanza fiscal.

Cuarta. Porque Tuto Quiroga no impondrá un sistema económico centralista, en contra ruta con los sistemas de gobierno modernos basados en economías sociales de mercado. No eliminará el sistema de regulación. No devolverá al Estado el papel de asigandor de precios, echando por el piso todo lo avanzado en términos de mercado.

"Full disclosure": I half-heartedly support the PODEMOS candidacy; the text above captures many of the reasons why.

Of course, Tuto is not without a fault, during his vice-presidency with Banzer he did nothing to continue or build upon the liberalization policies set by the previous administration, in many cases he reversed or almost destroyed them (i.e Bonosol). During his short presidency after Banzer's death, he mismanaged the gas export issue, (doing such things in secrecy usually yields bad results) which became one of the elements fueling civil unrest later on. More recently, during the worst periods of political crisis, Tuto was nowhere to be found. He may have wanted to keep his image clean of associations with Sanchez de Losada or Mesa, but disappearing completely –not even sending a letter to encourage conciliation- seems extremely selfish to me. In any case, at this point – and seeing the alternatives – the good in Tuto overwhelms the bad. I’d vote for him.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Corporate Social Responsibility Taking Hold in Bolivia

During the past few years the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been adopted by plenty of corporations in the United States and other developed countries. It used to be that only non-profits and special interest groups addressed issues such as poverty, sustainable development and other ethical aspects of doing business. Nowadays, some of the world’s largest firms can’t get away without making a CSR statement in their annual reports or adopting special measures in their daily operations. CSR is not about philanthropy; it’s about how companies earn their profits, rather than how they spend them in good works later.

In Bolivia, we’ve been dealing with sustainable development policies for some time now, primarily tied to government and international-cooperation programs. Private enterprise did not get into CSR or “Responsabilidad Social Empresarial” (RSE) as it’s called in Spanish until recently. However, there already are a handful of organizations that encourage CSR and seek to popularize it. Some of their accomplishments so far include generating a roster of members that consists of all major foreign oil and gas companies operating in Bolivia, and successfully launching two annual forums on CSR. (See the program for the most recent version)

Some Bolivian private organizations that encourage CSR practices are:

Concejo Boliviano de RSE (COBORSE). - A La Paz-based network, that seeks to become the main national promoter of CSR and sustainable development. COBORSE works with companies and other social actors in generating alliances and creating information networks. It currently has twenty-three members, the majority of which are business associations, non-profit organizations and foundations. Website: http://www.coborse.org/

Concejo Empresarial para el Desarrollo Sostenible (CEDES). - A foundation based in Santa Cruz, CEDES was began operating in 2003 and currently has around fifteen members, mainly energy and mining concerns. Its mission is to develop a network of enterprises that apply positive economic, social and environmental policies. Website: http://www.cedesbolivia.org/

FUNDES. - Which is really an international non-profit organization with operations in Bolivia; FUNDES provides support for small and medium enterprises (PyMEs) through consulting services and educational activities. Website: http://bolivia2.fundes.org/

Red de Desarrollo Sostenible y Medio Ambiente (REDESMA). - This non-profit group was founded in 1999 and is dedicated to linking organizations and creating an “ecological conscience” among private enterprises. It produces a good quantity of publications and hosts a number of events. Website: http://www.redesma.org/

Foro Boliviano del Medio Ambiente: FOBOMADE is a similar organization, but has a little more of a partisan and activist role. It leans towards preservation of the environment Website: http://www.fobomade.org.bo/

Some Bolivian governmental organizations that encourage Sustainable Development and CSR:

Ministerio de Desarrollo Sostenible (MDS). - The primary governmental institution when it comes to sustainable development, MDS generates national policies concerning the environment. It has legislative power over issues such as genetically modified crops, emissions control, water and forestry resources, industrial waste management, etc. Website: http://www.mds.gov.bo/

Fondo Nacional de Inversión Productiva y Social.- The National Fund of Productive and Social Investment allocates financial resources at micro levels of government (municipal) Website: http://www.fps.gov.bo/

Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Regional (FDNR).- A similar institution, FNDR, allocates funds to regional development initiatives. Website: http://www.fndr.gov.bo/

As we can see, there is a good base of organizations encouraging Bolivian companies to adopt CSR policies. We should expect more and more companies to start introducing CSR measures, which is a positive turn of events given that traditionally; private enterprise in developing countries is seen as non-responsive to social inequalities or environmental conservation.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Today’s News Catch: November 8, 2005

Interview with Economist Dr. Augusto López Claros.

Sunday, La Razón published a great interview with Dr. Augusto López Claros, Chief Economist and Director of the Global Competitiveness Program of the World Economic Forum. Dr. López talks about entrepreneurship and competitiveness, I suggest you read it.

Dr. López, will be visiting Bolivia as part of the selection process of The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship “Social Entrepreneur 2005” award. (Javier H. Mercado’s IRUPANA coffee company seems to be the only nominee). Dr. López will also dictate a conference titled “Economic Growth and National Prosperity”.

Read this Article (SP)

Development of San Cristobal is on Track

La Razón reports that new equipment has been arriving for the San Cristobal project. San Cristobal, the multimillion dollar silver mining project established by Apex Silver Mines Limited (AMEX: SIL) a few years ago will start operations in the second half of 2007. According to the companies’ press release “The mining contractor has begun commissioning mobile equipment to start pre-stripping activities by the end of September 2005. Main access roads to the two initial orebodies, the first waste dump and the primary crusher are now under active construction. Excavations in the grinding and flotation areas are well underway to commence construction of the milling facility in the third quarter of 2005.” (See this source)

San Cristóbal is the world’s second largest known reserve of silver and seventh for zinc. Once it starts operating at full capacity, it’ll become the third largest silver producer in the world. The San Cristobal project is fundamental source of tax revenue for Potosí.

Read this Article (SP)

Brazilian LCC Regional Airliner GOL begins operations in Bolivia

Los Tiempos reports: “la compañía brasileña Líneas Aéreas Inteligentes, GOL, comenzó a operar ayer en la ruta Santa Cruz-Campo Grande con el concepto bajo costo, baja tarifa y de esta forma consolida su plan de expansión en Sudamérica…”

Continue reading the article (SP) or visit GOL’s website

Bolivia's COMIBOL seeks conciliation to recover Huanuni tin mine

(Metalsplace.com Nov. 08, 2005) Bolivia's state mining company Comibol has taken steps to initiate a conciliation process with liquidators of failed metals trading house RBG Resources to recover control of the Huanuni tin mine in Oruro, a director for the company told Platts Monday. Grover Alejandro Gutierrez said that the company had sent documents to liquidators at the UK offices of Grant Thornton to begin a conciliation process under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce in La Paz. "We are following the process set out in the rent contract with Allied Deals (the original name of RBG Resources)," he explained...

Read this Article (EN)