Tata, Asia Energy have to wait

Tasneem Khalil

Tasneem Khalil

[Dhaka Correspondent] Decisions on investment proposals from Tata and Asia Energy are set to take some more time due to confusion over gas reserves and absence of a national coal policy, finance adviser Mirza Azizul Islam said Wednesday.

“We are sending out signals to foreign investors as we cannot decide on investment proposals from Tata and Asia Energy,” he told newsmen at his planning ministry office after a meeting with a visiting ADB (Asian Development Bank) executive.

Long-pending investment proposals came up for discussion at the meeting with Kunio Senga, ADB director general for South Asia. ADB offers Bangladesh assistance in developing the coal sector amid differences of opinion among Bangladeshi mining experts and conservationists over the mining method: open-pit or underground. The debate led to outrage in Phulbari coal-mine area last year.

Finance adviser said the government will settle the Asia Energy issue once the coal policy is formulated. Meanwhile, Asia Energy has expressed its willingness to start renegotiations with the government on Phulbari coal-mine development. “We’ve told them that we will look into the terms and conditions for negotiations after finalization of national coal policy,’ Azizul said.

About the $3 billion investment proposals of Indian conglomerate Tata, the adviser said it is a complicated matter and the gas reserve issue is closely linked to it, “As the terms and conditions have a provision for ensuring uninterrupted gas supply for several years, we’ll have to assess our actual gas reserve as there are different findings in this regard, and we’re not sure which one is correct.”

Aziz also discussed with the ADB executive matters relating to recent floods and post-flood rehabilitation. He said the government formed a committee headed by the planning secretary to assess the flood damages and rehabilitation needs, “Rough estimates suggest the flood damages will be within $200 to $250 million.”

“After the finance adviser’s visit to Manila, we realized that the flood in Bangladesh was severe and we formed a team for needs-assessment,” Kunio Senga said after the meeting. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to provide assistance for flood rehabilitation.”