By Alex David Rosaria
Debt-ridden Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) faces the possibility of completely disappearing from the map or getting absorbed by another Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE). This, as a result of a thorough overhaul of many SOEs by the powerful Chinese State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) which embarked on a revamp of its SOEs in 2015 to tackle rising corporate debt and also to make them more profitable.
A leading financial newspaper of Southeast Asia has quoted Mr. Xiao Yaqing, the SASAC chairman, wanting “to reduce a lot of ‘zombie enterprises’ and improve the management efficiency”. Whether GZE is specifically considered a zombie SOE cannot be confirmed, at least not at this time. One thing is for sure however, GZE was not at the top of its game when it comes to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road Strategy to make it the world’s strongest economic powerhouse. Far from that. They messed up big time in Myanmar as I reported long before it became news in Curaçao after returning from an assignment from that country at the end of 2016. Funny thing is that GZE showcased its involvement in Myanmar as its visit card to get involved in Curaçao. Most shocking was that I got firsthand knowledge of GZE’s involvement in grave human rights violations by driving people off of their farm lands in order to build what would’ve been a multi-billion dollar refinery in Myanmar.
Yet the Curaçao project team responsible for finding the best international partner to modernize the Curaçao refinery, MDPT, somehow pulled GZE out of a hat and had the Whiteman Administration happily sign on the dotted line. Did the project manager fool everyone? Or, did the whole team get played by the Chinese? Or, did it purposely look away from the ugly facts? Were the Administrations from 2016 onward so eager to score politically (and maybe personally) that they were willing to make a deal with some wannabe refinery experts? Where was the independent press? Did some media outlets feel they had to keep quiet and go with the flow after the GZE paid for a plush trip to China for a group of local media people?
I don’t know if these questions will ever get answered. Hopefully we’ve all gained from these lessons learned. We cannot have the fate of our refinery continue to be in hands of people on solo tours or who consider themselves some kind of superhero. That’s how we lost a lot of valuable time with GZE in the first place. We need transparency. We need politicians who don’t get involved in the technical nitty gritty. We need people to look into the corporate and social behavior of all would-be candidates to run our refinery in the future. We need an independent project team that looks into the real possibilities of redeveloping the prime location that the refinery currently occupies on our island. Nothing is forever, surely not the refinery.
By Alex Rosaria
Alex David Rosaria (50) is from Curaçao and has a MBA from the University of Iowa. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America.
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