Romania: How multinationals gain support
Over the past week Romanian government officials, mining industry figures, and several other parties championing the planned Rosia Montana gold mine project have been quoting an ‘independent’ report written by a man named Dr. Patrick Basham.
The report titled “Balkan Tiger or Balkan Backwater: Today’s threat to Romania’s economic plan” was carried out by Washington-based think-tank, Democracy Institute, of which Dr. Basham is the founding director.
The 38-page document was published a few days before Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta was due at a meeting in Washington.
The report was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, and Basham was given airtime on Canadian Radio and BBC 5 Live as a talking head on the subject of Romania’s future. Basham, an American, ended his conversation with the BBC, saying: “what we have to do, although we can’t make these things happen, what we have to hope and encourage is that the changes [in Romania] are in a direction that’s in our strategic self-interest.”
How can Basham make such comments and write an objective and ‘independent’ report on Romania’s future whilst bearing in mind the interests of America?
There are a few notable points about the report and its author.
The Democracy Institute has links to various right-wing groups such as American Enterprise Institute, which according to Right Wing Watch, has a reputation for climate change denial, downplaying the effects of pesticides, and has been successful in placing its key figures in influential government positions – especially in the Bush Administration.
Basham is also a contributor to a publication called Spiked, which has been known to receive payments from mobile phone companies to spark debates on the impacts of mobile phone health and the environment, in favour of said industries.
In 2010 Basham received heavy criticism from Cancer Research UK for producing a dubious non-peer reviewed paper on the ‘crippling effects’ plain packaged cigarettes would have on tobacco companies – an industry he apparently has a long-standing interest with.
His report on Romania carried a ‘case-study’ on the Rosia Montana mining project, whilst making note of Romania’s rich shale gas reserves which Chevron, an American multinational, own a license to frack – also a project being met with fierce public opposition. Basham states: “Romania faces a choice between two policy paths: one leads to a prosperous, market-driven tiger economy built upon environmentally sustainable foundations; and the other leads to a Romania with the status and circumstance of a Balkan backwater, a corrupt political establishment ‘leading’ an economically impoverished populace.”
The prosperous ‘tiger economy’ Basham speaks of is a Romania selling off its rich mineral and energy reserves to multinationals – and yet this path the country is trying to lead is swamped with political corruption and controversy over the environmental damage it will cause.
Basham also stated: “In economic and environmental terms, the mining project is clearly a win-win scenario” – which makes one question whether he read anything at all about the planned quantity of cyanide usage over the 16-year exploitation period in Rosia Montana, or the series of earthquakes Romania has been experiencing as a possible result of fracking.
Also noteworthy is Basham’s role as ‘adjunct scholar’ with CATO Institute, another right wing think tank. Their website lists its sponsors and among the illustrious pack of names is none other than energy conglomerate Chevron – who have recently been cast off the land in Romania’s rural village Pungesti by protestors and farmers opposing the controversial gas extraction. Basham preempted the threat of Rosia Montana’s protestors collectivising in a movement against Chevron.
The cover of the Report states, “The Democracy Institute does not accept project-specific funding and, therefore, has not received any financial support for this piece of work from any of the governments, industries, individuals, or organizations described or discussed in this paper” – then we must question Basham’s motivation for writing the report, and his previous work in favour of various multinationals – it seems strikingly similar to lobbying.
Romania was badly affected by the 2008 economic downturn, and was bailed out 20 billion Euros in 2010 by the International Monetary Fund. The predicament the Romanian government is currently facing is encouraging investment whilst protecting the country from being exploited by careless multinationals – whose interests lie above the environment and whose voice is louder than the Romanian public.