15 MAY 2002
Why the US embassy raised a few eyebrows
In the governments latest step in its privatisation drive, controversy has arisen from all the usual quarters and from some unusual ones as well.
Now the Malta Labour Party is calling for an independent investigation into the Malta International Airport deal. If the current administration fails to do so, it has promised to traverse that avenue itself when re-elected. The deals lack of transparency, according to the MLP, is damaging the countrys credibility. But it must be noted that the continual opposition to the privatisation drive evident earlier in the objections to the HSBC and the Maltapost deals - similarly damages Maltas international standing as a financial centre.
However, such criticism is only natural from a party in opposition, but when the US embassy became involved in the fray, perhaps not by its own design, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
US interest in the deal, of course, is rooted in the involvement of Bechtel Enterprises - the project development, financing, and ownership affiliate of the Bechtel Organisation, a corporation of enormous proportions and corporate clout, which it has never been afraid to use in the past.
Bechtel is one of, if not the, largest engineering construction company in the US and has participated in building half the nuclear power plants in the world.
Since its origins in 1906 as a railroad construction concern, the corporation has earned itself considerable wealth, large political influence and an infamous reputation in many circles.
Using the influence of friends in high places, Bechtel amassed a fortune building war ships, pipelines, oil refineries, liquid gas plants, hydro-electric complexes including the famous Hoover Dam - and nuclear power plants.
From research carried out by the Malta Financial and Busi9ness Times, the Bechtel empire is reported to have close links with the ominous US Central Intelligence Agency, which it has put to use for its benefit. The US Agency for International Development, an arm of the CIA, had awarded Bechtel a USD4.3 million contract to assist several third world countries such as Morocco, Bangladesh, Costa Rica and Jamaica to develop their fossil fuel resources.
It is also reported that through its close relationship with the CIA, it employed several people in many sensitive places such as Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and the Soviet Union with the primary aim of gathering intelligence for the CIA.
Bechtel had also befriended the likes of former US President Ronald Reagan, who proved helpful to Bechtel's corporate interests, as prior to his election as the Governor of California, nuclear plant construction was proceeding slowly. Reagan, however, had raised electricity rates and with the proceeds of this windfall of more than USD2 billion a year, Bechtel was hired to build several major nuclear plants.
Then in the 1980's Bechtel helped create a growth industry ironically the cleaning up of chemical and nuclear wastes. Bechtel profited by winning the USD1.5 billion contract to cleanup after the disastrous accident at Three Mile Island. Following the downturn in the industry after the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979erica's leading nuclear suppliers and utilities into a lobbying group called the United States Committee for Energy Awareness to pressure Congress for a renewed commitment to nuclear power.
Their campaign found a fervent believer in Ronald Reagan who set out to streamline nuclear regulatory procedures and to lift US restrictions against the sale of nuclear fuel to South Africa.
Bechtel has convinced the world's most powerful decision-makers that nuclear energy is the power source for the future and on the same hand invented a government-funded industry to clean up the mess. In the big business Bechtel is involved in - where money, power and privilege are the order of the day nothing can be underestimated, especially when the mix involves big money and diplomatic will.