Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Reko Diq: Value of Pakistan's Copper Deposits Soars Amid Surging Demand

The value of copper assets has surged 31.7% in the last six months, significantly surpassing the rise in tech stocks (20.2%) and gold (20%) in the same period. Growing demand for copper is mainly driven by increasing adoption of green technologies such as electric vehicles and growth in AI (artificial intelligence) data centers using the latest Nvidia chips. At current prices, the value of copper and gold deposits at Reko Diq in Balochistan province is nearly $200 billion.  

Comparing Asset Price Appreciation Over Last Six Months. Source: Wall Street Journal

Interest in developing Pakistan's Reko Diq copper and gold mines has also grown with widening gap between demand and supply of the metals. Dennis Mark Bristow, CEO of the Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation, has said the Reko Diq mining project in Balochistan province is “absolutely on track” and would be able to begin production by 2028, according to news reports. Bristow said Reko Diq is an “enormous project” in which the company would be investing $10 billion.

Growing Copper Supply-Demand Gap 

Clean Energy Driving Global Copper Demand. Source: IEA Via Nikkei

New infrastructure development is underway to connect Reko Diq with the national highway network. Barrick is building a link road to connect the mining project site with N-40 Quetta-Taftan national highway. Barrick chief says the company looks at the project as a “multi-generational investment,” adding that it wants all children under the age of 10 in the Reko Diq region to be in school by the end of 2024.  Similar infrastructure projects to support coal mining in Thar desert have brought socioeconomic improvements and human development for the local villagers. 

Reko Diq project is expected to employ thousands of workers during and after completion. Barrick has interviewed over 3,000 applicants from universities across Pakistan and selected 9 Baloch citizens, four women and five men, according to Bristow. “And they are now working on our mines in Argentina and they will go through a program of development and gaining experience from all our different operations around the world,” Bristow said, saying 30 such graduates would be employed in training programs with the company by the end of the year.  By Jan-Feb next year (2025), he said, 1,200 people would be employed, which would increase to 6,000 by 2026. “By the time we peak production, we will have employed 10,000 people,” Bristow told Arab News. 

Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation and the governments of Pakistan and Balochistan reached a deal to restart the Reko Diq mining project back in March 2022 on former Prime Minister Imran Khan's watch. Reko Diq is the world's 4th largest undeveloped copper-gold porphyry deposit with over 14 million tons of copper (worth $142 billion at $9,464 per ton) and 21 million ounces  (worth $50 billion at $2,367 per ounce) of gold. 

The project was abandoned in 2011 after a Pakistan Supreme Court bench headed by former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry canceled the mining license granted to Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), a joint venture between Canada's Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals of Chile. TCC challenged the cancellation in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID). On July 12, 2019, the ICSID Tribunal awarded TCC $5.894 billion plus interest of  $700,000 per day in damages against Pakistan. As of 1 March 2022, the award stood at $6.5 billion. The new agreement between Barrick Gold Corporation  and the governments of Pakistan and Balochistan does away with this award. It also increases the share of the project owned by Pakistan from 25% to 50%, brings in $10 billion investment, the largest single investment in the country, and creates 8,000 jobs. Reko Diq is part of the Tethyan metallogenic belt (TMB) that extends from the Balkans in Europe to Pakistan including Serbo-Macedonian, Anatolian, Takab, Kerman and Chagai metallogenic belts. It is believed to be rich in copper and gold deposits.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

New Infrastructure Brings Socioeconomic Development to Thar Desert

Pakistan Revives Reko Diq Mining Project

Kachhi Canal and N-70 Projects Boost Pakistan's Balochistan

Iftikhar Chaudhry Scared Away Foreign Investors

Musharraf Earned Legitimacy by Good Governance

Vindictive Judges Pursue Musharraf

Rare Earths at Reko Diq?

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Global Baby Bust: Pakistan is A Rare Bright Spot Among Most Populous Nations in Asia

There is an alarming rapid decline in fertility rates in both developed and developing nations, according to the United Nations.  Here is how the Wall Street Journal describes it: "The world is at a startling demographic milestone. Sometime soon, the global fertility rate will drop below the point needed to keep the population constant. It may have already happened". 

Total Fertility Rates in 12 Most Populous Nations. Source: Wall Street Journal

Birth rates are low and fertility is rapidly dropping for women across all levels of income, education and labor-force participation around the world. Fertility is falling among Pakistani women too but more slowly than elsewhere in Asia. In fact, Pakistani women have the third highest fertility rate (3.47) among the 12 most populous nations of the world. 

Pakistan Fertility Rate. Source: Data Commons

Birth rates have economic, social and geopolitical consequences. "The falling birthrates come with huge implications for the way people live, how economies grow and the standings of the world’s superpowers", says the Wall Street Journal report titled "Suddenly There Aren’t Enough Babies. The Whole World Is Alarmed". 

No challenge is greater than the irreversible decline in female fertility rates that China, Japan, South Korea and the West are now experiencing. It's an existential threat. Nations and civilizations with sub-replacement fertility rates will eventually cease to exist. Automation can not replace young curious minds responsible for new ideas, innovation and social and economic vitality. Nor can automation replace consumers needed to buy and pay for products and services produced by robots.

Back in 2022, Goldman Sachs analysts Kevin Daly and  Tadas Gedminas projected Pakistan's economy to grow to become the world's sixth largest by 2075.  In a research paper titled "The Path to 2075", the authors predicted Pakistan's GDP to rise to $12.7 trillion with per capita income of $27,100.  India’s GDP in 2075 is projected at $52.5 trillion and per capita GDP at $31,300.  Bangladesh is projected to be a $6.3 trillion economy with per capita income of $31,000.  By 2075, China will be the top global economy, followed by India 2nd, US 3rd, Indonesia 4th, Nigeria 5th and Pakistan 6th. The forecast is based primarily on changes in the size of working age populations over the next 50 years.  

Economic Growth Rate Till 2075. Source: Goldman Sachs Investment Research 

Economic Impact of Slower Population Growth: 

Daly and Gedminas argue that slowing population growth in the developed world is causing their economic growth to decelerate. At the same time, the economies of the developing countries are driven by their rising populations.  Here are four key points made in the report:

 1) Slower global potential growth, led by weaker population growth. 

2) EM convergence remains intact, led by Asia’s powerhouses. Although real GDP growth has slowed in both developed and emerging economies, in relative terms EM growth continues to outstrip DM growth.

3) A decade of US exceptionalism that is unlikely to be repeated. 

4) Less global inequality, more local inequality. 

Goldman Sachs' Revised GDP Projections. Source: The Path to 2075

Demographic Dividend: 

With rapidly aging populations and declining number of working age people in North America, Europe and East Asia, the demand for workers will increasingly be met by major labor exporting nations like Bangladesh, China, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia and Vietnam. Among these nations, Pakistan is the only major labor exporting country where the working age population is still rising faster than the birth rate. 

Pakistan Population Youngest Among Major Asian Nations. Source: Nikkei Asia

World Population 2022. Source: Visual Capitalist

World Population 2050. Source: Visual Capitalist

Over 10 million Pakistanis are currently working/living overseas, according to the Bureau of Emigration. Before the COVID19 pandemic hit in 2020,  more than 600,000 Pakistanis left the country to work overseas in 2019. Nearly 700,000 Pakistanis have already migrated in this calendar year as of October, 2022. The average yearly outflow of Pakistani workers to OECD countries (mainly UK and US) and the Middle East was over half a million in the last decade. 

Consumer Markets in 2030. Source: WEF

World's 7th Largest Consumer Market:

Pakistan's share of the working age population (15-64 years) is growing as the country's birth rate declines, a phenomenon called demographic dividend. With its rising population of this working age group, Pakistan is projected by the World Economic Forum to become the world's 7th largest consumer market by 2030. Nearly 60 million Pakistanis will join the consumer class (consumers spending more than $11 per day) to raise the country's consumer market rank from 15 to 7  by 2030. WEF forecasts the world's top 10 consumer markets of 2030 to be as follows: China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, Pakistan, Japan, Egypt and Mexico.  Global investors chasing bigger returns will almost certainly shift more of their attention and money to the biggest movers among the top 10 consumer markets, including Pakistan.  Already, the year 2021 has been a banner year for investments in Pakistani technology startups

Record Remittances From Overseas Pakistanis:

Pakistan is already seeing high levels of labor export and record remittances of over $30 billion pouring into the country. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates(UAE) are the top two sources of remittances but the biggest increase (58%) in remittances is seen this year from Pakistanis in the next two sources: the United Kingdom and the United States.

Remittances from the European Union (EU) to Pakistan soared 49.7% in FY 21 and 28.3% in FY22, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. With $2.5 billion remittances in the first 9 months (July-March) of the current fiscal year, the EU ($2.5 billion) has now surpassed North America ($2.2 billion) to become the third largest source of inflows to Pakistan after the Middle East and the United Kingdom. Remittances from the US have grown 21%, second fastest after the EU (28.3%) in the first 9  months of the current fiscal year. 

Pakistan ranks 6th among the top worker remittance recipient countries in the world.  India and China rank first and second, followed by Mexico 3rd, the Philippines 4th, Egypt 5th and Pakistan 6th.  

Pakistan Demographics

About two million Pakistanis are entering the workforce every year. The share of the working age population in Pakistan is increasing while the birth rate is declining. This phenomenon, known as demographic dividend, is coinciding with declines in working age populations in developed countries. It is creating an opportunity for over half a million Pakistani workers to migrate and work overseas, and send home record remittances. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

India's Modi Brags About Ordering Transnational Assassinations

In a campaign speech on May 1, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi bragged about his campaign of transnational assassinations of individuals he has labeled "terrorists". “Today, India doesn't send dossiers to the masters of terrorism, but gives them a dose and kills them on their home turf", he is reported to have said, according to a tweet posted by his BJP party. Last month, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made a similar admission. “If any terrorist from a neighboring country tries to disturb India or carry out terrorist activities here, he will be given a fitting reply. If he escapes to Pakistan we will go to Pakistan and kill him there,” Singh said in an interview to Indian TV news network News18. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a BJP Campaign Rally. Source: BJP

Earlier, Pakistan government accused India of carrying out assassinations of Sikh and Kashmiri separatists on Pakistani soil. “We have documentary, financial and forensic evidence of the involvement of the two Indian agents who masterminded these assassinations,” Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Sajjad Qazi said at a news conference in Islamabad.

Pakistan is not alone in accusing India of assassinating dissidents overseas. Canada and the United States are also investigating murders allegedly carried out by Indian agents on their soil. Indian spies have also been kicked out of Australia after being caught monitoring Indian diaspora in the country. "They monitored their country's diaspora community, according to  the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) Director-General Mike Burgess  as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). "They asked a public servant to provide information on security protocols at a major airport."

Derek Grossman on India's Spy Agency RAW. Source: X

Commenting on the news fromAustralia, a US analyst Derek Grossman posted on X:  "Indian RAW gets exposed again, this time in Australia. Maybe, just maybe, they aren’t very good at the spy game". 

Gerry Shih of the Washington Post appears to concur with Derek Grossman's assessment of the incompetence of the Indian spy agencies. Referring to RAW's assassination plot against Sikh activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US citizen, Shih reported as follows: 

"After the plot against Pannun failed, the decision to entrust (Vikram) Yadav with the high-risk mission sparked recriminations within the agency, former officials said. Rather than joining RAW as a junior officer, Yadav had been brought in midcareer from India’s less prestigious Central Reserve Police Force, said one former official. As a result, the official said, Yadav lacked training and skills needed for an operation that meant going up against sophisticated U.S. counterintelligence capabilities". 

Back in 2018, India's former RAW officers, including one ex chief, have blamed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan in 2016, for getting caught in Pakistan as a "result of unprofessionalism", according to a report in India's "The Quint" owned and operated by a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media. The report that appeared briefly on The Quint website was later removed, apparently under pressure from the Indian government.