Originally Posted by wazcaster
North Korea is getting 3G technology? Yeah, right. Or will the dictatorship force the people to be customers?
A $400 million investment to boost infrastructure would be pointless and would never, ever earn any money. The only vehicles are a handful of busses in P'yongyang and various military vehicles. The roads are often empty and any attempt at building a train system would be pointless as nobody would be allowed to use it.
The whole story sounds like a load of crap, unless Orascom has been taken over by Kim Jong Il. No investment in North Korea would ever make any money back, so I seriously doubt that Orascom would invest that much in upgrading the DPRK's 'infrastructure'. Also, isn't building and maintaining a nation's infrastructure generally the government's job (even if it is outsourced to private companies)?
uh dude, if you read the release again, you'll note that the "infrastructure" to which you are referring is the cdma/3g infrastructure, it has nothing to do with trains or roads.
and far more interesting than the discussions of the dprk's political arrangements (which are obviously bad) or the state of the hotel's concrete (probably standard grade, quite a bit worse for wear after 16 years of exposure) is the nature of the deal with orascom.
in sum, orascom appears to be a pretty weird company. the principles (the sawiris family) have been linked to the elf scandal, adnan kashoggi and the oil-for-food scandal, and they're currently under investigation in the wind spa corruption scheme. the other places orascom has phone operations are algeria, pakistan, egypt, tunisia, iraq, bangladesh and zimbabwe - basically a rogues gallery of nations with brutal and/or highly corrupt leadership. orascom consistently get into emerging markets with poor governance structures, suggesting a comfort with these environments, a fact that further suggests a business model based on close regime ties (is there any other way to do business in these places?).
here's a question: how does an egyptian company with ties to loads of brutal regimes get involved in a place like the dprk? i mean, how does a group like this even get their foot in the door with the world's most insular and difficult regimes, let alone come to occupy such diverse businesses as concrete, hotels and telecom? here's pretty plausible (but entirely speculative) answer: either black market trading or arms dealing. my guess is that the mysterious source of the sawiris' pre-telecom wealth is something quite a bit more familiar to the north korean government than cell phones. i think, fellow forumers, that we've been inadvertently introduced to someone who at least figures as a point man for north korean embargo-busting. i'm no dprk expert, but it seems to me that a company willing to invest upwards of a billion dollars in the dprk ($400+ million on phones, $200-300 million on the hotel, $200-300 million in other industries), with no obvious means to achieving profitability any time soon, and with a history of such investment in likewise dodgy countries, is getting something off the books.
as for the hotel, when i read that it was to be completed, i just couldn't believe it. what does it say about a regime that even now, 16 years after the work was abandoned, it would be willing to devote such precious resources to its completion.