Friday, July 23, 2010

Fraud with impunity by Bert G. Shelton

The following publication clearly outlines the issues surrounding the current disaster evolving in the Gulf of Mexico and draws parallels to the Panama Canal expansion project currently underway. Written by noted Research Scientist and Professional Engineer, Bert G. Shelton, it can be found online at and at
Comite ProDefensa del Lago Gatun (Gatun Lake Defense Committee)

Fraud with impunity
by Bert G. Shelton

Real planning and serious engineering seem no longer relevant to the business of "making money." From devastated Haiti, where the construction business flagrantly cut corners which ultimately cost lives (i.e. the poorly constructed UN building), to the Gulf of Mexico now turning black due to more of the same, businessmen routinely direct their projects to eliminate "pesky" engineering details in order to reduce project costs.

The typical response given to those who voice concern is "that's the way it’s always been, so let it go." Thus, it should come as no surprise that big wigs of big companies don't really see it as their fault when things go wrong. Through its inaction, society has accepted that attitude and mode of operation.

Today, doing things wrong has taken on dimensions that most cannot fathom. The heads of projects world-wide are straying more and more from established norms and regulations. Cheating --- and getting away with it --- now seems to be more than just about making easy money. It appears that the game has degenerated into a competition among corrupt egomaniacs for the title of "World's Greatest Cheater."

How badly rules-of-engagement end up being corrupted doesn't matter, so long as the bastardized economics of the project result in inflated profits for its promoters while others are left to deal with resulting damages, often deliberate and avoidable. Minimizing damages to third parties or to the environment is, in fact, contrary to the goal of those running the game. In this competition, getting away with having caused damage is as important of a goal as is making money; more of both is better.

These people want to be remembered, and history has shown that notoriously evil people ultimately get more press than people doing good deeds. Unlike the evildoers that have tried to reach the top through force and become famous dead men, these new devils wish to reach the top without losing their lives in the process.

In developed nations, finesse is required for them to promote questionable designs and advance those to construction. Payoffs to officials and inspectors must be kept under the radar. Getting workers to comply with bad directives is somewhat easier, as most will look the other way rather than lose their job.

In developing nations, on the other hand, officials are there to be bought off and workforce ethics are irrelevant.

More distressing than the open corruption in those nations is how they are being misused. Through them truly devious players of the underworld are bilking the developed nations of untold wealth.

Traditionally, despot leaders of developing nations have rushed ill-conceived projects to fruition so that, before they were out-of-office, they could pocket some of the funds provided by international "development" banks.

While this still goes on, it is apparent that devious players now either greatly influence, or have become part of, the leadership of developing nations to take advantage of the cash offered by the banks. It also seems that hidden relationships have been forged with unscrupulous bank officials who supply funds for unnecessary projects in those nations without independently determining whether or not the project is actually beneficial to that nation.

In fact, more and more in practice, the bankers aren't being required to advise anyone of projects they are funding with the moneys supplied by developed nations. Concerned citizens of the world find out about most projects when those are a done deal and already afoot. What's going on is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

It should, therefore come as no surprise that laundering ill-gotten booty is the objective of a large number --- perhaps even the majority --- of these projects. The lack of proper guidelines for verifying that projects qualify for bank loans, together with the lack of independent oversight, ensure the game's success. As independent confirmation of project effectiveness and environmental compatibility --- i.e. sustainability --- is not a requirement, bogus projects are popping up in developing countries like weeds in the field. In this manner, developed nations end up funding money-laundering schemes.

These corrupt money games happening in poorer nations are not without consequences to the developed nations. In addition to giving underworld players financial backing, morally bankrupt characters are being entrusted with the planet's well-being, which is idiocy considering that they could care less about the well-being of the planet.

US shores are presently being impacted by a disastrous oil-well blowout that was no accident. It was caused by a series of "money-saving directives" made by unscrupulous company officials who, like the underworld players, tried to land a winning goal in the piece of "the game" they controlled. They lost and the planet pays. Now it appears this disaster has been converted into a new "business opportunity" that is being milked for all its worth.

Far from the shores of developed nations, equally serious problems are accumulating from the crooked games being played in the developing ones. While each nation being raped will suffer first, negative effects will mount and eventually reach everyone's shores, devastating the oceans in between in the process.

An example of a project now afoot with serious long-term negative consequences is the Panama Canal expansion that --- in a worldwide promotional campaign that would have brought tears of joy to the eyes of Nazi Germany's Goebbels --- was touted as the best-planned project ever, yet it is based on an obsolete lock design. For the service it will provide, this expansion will cost more than one based on newer state-of-the-art designs. Plus, it will forever use nearly twice the water otherwise required, permanently wasting the canal's most critical resource and stunting its growth potential. It will also cause unnecessary environmental damage and avoidable human displacement.

The new system's inefficiency, permanent shorting of capacity, and higher maintenance needs will result in much higher tolls than necessary. This will raise prices of goods that transit it, the lion's share of which are destined for US markets. Consumers everywhere will forever pay too much so that a few crooks can get rich now.

Furthermore, operation of the lane being added will rapidly salt up the canal, something avoided by the original US design. Besides ruining a world-important freshwater reserve, this will permit sea creatures of both oceans to co-mingle, with results as unpredictable as those of the current holocaust unfolding in the Gulf. It is known that this deadly consequence can be fully avoided with cheaper, more efficient and higher-capacity familiar designs.

Surmising that the primary goal of that project's promoters was to obtain loans from several development banks ---- achieved with a carefully orchestrated campaign to promote the one-and-only lock design considered --- it would seem that building the planned new lane is all that remains to be done. That no independent assessments were ever done to insure the design selected for this world-important project was indeed the best, which it is not, is ludicrous. And, that there is no mechanism to assure that the project will meet whatever stipulations were attached to the loans obtained is totally unacceptable.

Note that in the same way US officials failed to adequately watchdog offshore drilling, they also failed to exercise existing rights to protect US interests with respect to the canal. That's of no surprise, considering the financial games that were played during the Bush-Cheney government that caused a world financial crash along with those played in Panama then and even now. Under the Obama administration a different attitude is not very likely either.

Money games, such as providing development funds to money-laundering projects, or allowing investors to write-off investments in things like reforestation --- which has led to primary forests being cut down to make way for reforestation with non-native trees --- must be stopped. If they are not stopped, the making of carbon-credit treaties becomes a waste of time and money. Why pretend to be "penny wise" while being "pound foolish?"

With that kind of nonsense going on world wide, many wonder why anyone should even bother to recycle. Damages to the world being caused by the mismanagement of projects dwarf these positive efforts.

The present system, under which projects world wide are being blessed, is seriously degrading standards of quality and efficiency. Infrastructure is being built by charlatans who have neither the experience nor the knowledge to correctly apply technologies, even less the capability of finding better solutions, and who don't care. With these people's only interest being to make easy money, they will do things as ineffectively as society will let them.

If the world is to escape this downward spiral, the leaders of the United States and of the rest of the developed world must be pressured by their constituents to stop giving huge sums of money to charlatans and thieves.

No comments: