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CSR relevance in Balochistan hard to pin down

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. It is also known as corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, sustainable responsible business (SRB), or corporate social performance. It is actually about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, CSR is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large. Ideally, CSR policy would function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business would monitor and ensure its support to law, ethical standards, and international norms.

CSR has been redefined throughout the years. However, it essentially is titled to aid to an organization’s mission as well as a guide to what the company stands for and will uphold to its consumers. Experts believe that there is a strong business case for CSR, in that corporations benefit in multiple ways by operating with a perspective broader and longer than their own immediate, short-term profits. Critics, however, say that CSR distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses and argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing.

IMPLEMENTATION

There has been lack of sustainable responsible business with regard to the operations of companies on different projects in Pakistan. As for instance, the development projects in Balochistan may be cited with CSR relevance. Chagai is one of the most backward and least developed areas in Balochistan. It absolutely lacks the health care facilities and educational infrastructure. The human development indicators in the district are among most challenging in the country. With no infrastructure, proper road network and no industry, the people of the Chagai desert absolutely lacks the employment opportunities to earn their livelihoods.

Saindak copper project, which was launched by a Chinese firm without undertaking environmental impact assessment (EIA), has depleted Chagai’s meager water resources and polluted the environment with toxic substances. Production from Saindak started in 2003. What economic spill over it has brought to the province or at least to the people of Chagai, which are still deprived of basic facilities of life including drinking water, health and education. Saindak project in fact lacks the concept of CSR.

It was short-sighted policy of the former government that Tethyan Copper Co Ltd (TCC), the operator of the mega copper mining project at Reko Diq in Chagai district was kicked out of the province. TCC was a joint venture between Canada’s Barrick Gold and Chile’s Antofagasta Plc. TCC’s vision was to operate a world-class copper-gold mine at Reko Diq, Balochistan in a safe and socially responsible way. The Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the project had been finalized. International standards set by World Bank had been followed in EIA of the project in order to avoid, minimize, mitigate or compensate adverse impacts of the project. The company planned to use renewable energy opportunities like wind farms, geothermal and bio-fuels for its operations in Reko Diq.

The TCC had plans to launch basic life skills and vocational training program in partnership with a local NGO. First batch of local employees, 80 percent from the province and approximately 76 percent of them were from district Chagai, had already been sent to DESCON Institute Lahore. The company was committed to provide training to the local women in tailoring skills for establishing local tailoring businesses to supply TCC uniforms. TCC planned to take health care initiatives in Chagai. Its initiatives included establishment of free Community Health Centre for immediate communities at Humai and Nocha villages, training of local female health visitors and provision of logistical support for annual national immunization program in Nokkundi area.

In education sector, the company was committed to provide teacher training, uniforms and stationary for local schools in public sector. It sponsored initiatives like Nokkundi Literacy week in partnership with local NGOs and rehabilitation of water supply schemes in local schools.

Balochistan will take years to come at par with developed regions of the country. Unfortunately, development of social sector has been receiving least focus of the policy makers in Quetta and Islamabad. The social sector has suffered from years of neglect and under-funding. So far as companies operating in Balochistan are concerned, they could not manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.

The local people’s demands and needs were not taken into account when the former government of former president Pervez Musharraf signed agreements with foreign firms for launching mega projects in the province.

EDUCATION AND HEALTH ISSUES

The province has no skilled and trained labor to utilize its natural resources. Resultantly, its resource potential remained untapped and the province has been caught up in underdevelopment trap. With low participation in general education and low completion rates at primary and secondary levels, the unemployment and underemployment rates in the province are higher than the national rates. Job vacancies are often unfilled due to lack of trained personnel. The province has a poor record in educating girls. Only about one-third of girls, who should be in primary school, are enrolled in the province. Balochistan’s gross primary school enrollment rates show a significant disparity between male and female enrollment.

The health indicators in Balochistan like infant and mother mortality are poorer than any other province. Major causes of water-related diseases include lack of water supply and sanitation facilities, absence of proper sewerage disposal, waste mismanagement and contaminated water. These diseases can be prevented by facilitating the population with proper sewerage and sanitation disposal systems.

A healthy population can work better for the economic progress of the province fully utilizing its capabilities and skills. For obtaining this health capital in the province, there is a high need to resolve basic and pressing issues related to the health sector. In rural areas, the health status is relatively poor. Lack or absence of female health staff including female doctors in rural areas worsens the situation. According to an estimate, there is only one doctor available for 7300 persons in average.

Local people have never been against the development of province’s resources through attracting foreign investments. The province direly needs investment for the development of its enormous resources in all economic sectors. People have always been apprehensive about their due stake in the development projects, as they were not taken aboard when the authorities in Islamabad signed agreements with foreign companies for the development of local resources. They have ever resented over the virtual control of the centre and aliens over the province’s resources.

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