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Doha Time & Temperature

Gulf states urged to work on ‘neutral body’ for tech edge
Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 02:18 AM Doha Time

By Santhosh V Perumal

Raha ... win-win situation
DOHA: A neutral institutional structure – sponsored by the UN, multilateral agencies, governments or regional grouping – could cost-effectively facilitate procurement of technology, a move that could greatly benefit the Gulf energy producers, according to a top technocrat.
The lead could come from the governments of the energy rich countries for which there should be political consensus on the creation of such a body, which can charge a fee, said Subir Raha, chairman of India’s Hinduja National Power Company.
“The Gulf states have lot of resources in oil and gas and money but the know-how part is of no great shapes,” Raha, former chief of India’s largest company Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, told Gulf Times on the sidelines of 3rd ‘Enriching The Middle East’s Economic Future’ conference, which concluded here yesterday.
Highlighting that three are three centres of gravity in the development process – producers (sellers), market (buyers) and knowledge providers, he said geographically the first entity that have resources is concentrated in the Gulf and the second was mainly in Asia, particularly India, China and Japan, while technology has been more developed in the West.
Although Europe and the Americas have huge demand but their growth rate is much lower and often their wasteful consumption has been higher, while in Asia, the needed consumption was not happening, he said.
Observing that buying and selling was these days done in a negotiated manner, involving a lot of time and pecuniary costs, he said there are countries that do not even have the capacity to do effective negotiations.
In such a situation, he urged the Gulf countries to get together in a collaborative way and work out the best deals for which there is a need for knowledge extension or an institutional structure, which could greatly mitigate the imbalances and ensure a win-win situation for the producers, technology providers and consumers.
Raha said such a body should be non-partisan and not be involved in the negotiations but rather present the opportunities and technologies to the parties concerned, who should finally close the deal.
Admitting that such a proposition may sound utopian today, he said it was workable considering that 50 years back, the European Union was taken as a mad man’s dream.
Establishing such a neutral body would “tremendously” help all the countries and stakeholders, he said, adding it should have representations of all the three segments and could be sponsored by UN, sovereign governments, regional grouping and agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The lead, he said, could come from the governmental level because there is a need for a political consensus.
“Some of the (Gulf) governments can come together and work on these” and specialised agencies could be roped in to develop the operational aspects, Raha added.
He said multilateral agencies such as ADB and the World Bank have their own rules for contracting because many countries did not have the necessary expertise.
Asserting that it is a win-win situation for all the stakeholders, Raha said more employment could be generated only if there were good investments that materialised quickly for which negotiations have to be fast and efficient.
For the buyers, he said, their money was being spent on meeting the immediate demand without developing the refining capacity and hence choking mordernisation that could have addressed quality and health, safety and environment issues more efficiently.
On the fee aspect, he said the administrative costs for a body that could facilitate multi-billion projects would be minimal and “I don’t think anybody would grudge because everybody saves money by avoiding out-bidding and road shows.”

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