After Rio Tinto Debacle: Sarawak Chief Minister accused of greed, economic incompetence

(KUCHING, MALAYSIA). Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud is facing massive criticism after Rio Tinto Alcan’s decision to scrap its planned US$2 billion investment in an aluminium smelter in the East Malaysian state in Borneo. While environmental campaigners hailed the decision by the Australian mining giant as a breakthrough in their attempts to halt twelve planned hydro-dams in Sarawak, they also accused the long-term governor of the state, Taib Mahmud ("Taib"), of being greedy, highly corrupt and economically incompetent.

"With its rich biodiversity and its wealth in natural resources, Sarawak could have become a model state for sustainable development. Instead , Taib has turned Sarawak into a private gold mine for his voracious clan.", a spokesperson for the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund said. Research by the Bruno Manser Fund has shown that the Taib family have acquired stakes in over 400 companies, worth billions of US dollars, in 25 countries and offshore finance centers.

"Taib cannot create value. He can only exploit others by grabbing their land, stealing their resources and destroying their livelihood", the Bruno Manser Fund wrote in a statement. "This is a vampire economy that benefits a handful of people connected to the ruling family while the great majority have to pay the price. This man has to be stopped because he is about to ruin Sarawak’s economy for good." It is particularly feared that the Taib government’s economically unsustainable dam constructions will endebt the East Malaysian state for decades.

On Wednesday, Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud tried to downplay Rio Tinto’s decision to shelve its Sarawak smelter plans. He said Rio Tinto’s decision would not affect the state government’s plans to go ahead with SCORE, a govrnment scheme promoting the construction of twelve new dams by 2020. Rio Tinto Alcan confirmed to BMF that, after five years of negiotiations with the Taib government, "it is no longer pursuing plans to develop a world class aluminium smelter in Sarawak, Malaysia" because "agreement on a long term competitive power supply contract could not be reached."

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