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Series No. 09



Well, you know it isn't the twenties anymore, you can't possibly just leave it to the market, can you? said the investor with a far away look in his eyes. We used to be the adjuster of markets through arbitrage, but our role now is rather limited. With non-linear simulation doing so well in planned economy like Iran, Jordan and Canada, what's the use of a market adjuster? Especially in the field of infrastructure finance. Last century's relic privatization projects were a disaster, right? So many collapsing, especially in Eastern Europe, almost no BOT survived. And with all of those projects at their concession agreements' end, it's a nightmare. Even here in Japan, after a multitude of minor revision, that PFI thing didn't fly at all, and the one project that everyone thought would MAKE it fly, ended up in....well, this, you know. Infrastructure was for the public, after all. You can't really rely on the whim of the market, not with something with such a long life span.

That project was what the photographer was here for.

Well, yes, it was rather unsound, to think about it now. Redevelopment of a railway station, combined with the railway expansion, plus a new subway line. Very complicated. The lines had no financial feasibility what so ever, so we had to make the station building into a shopping mall in itself, in order to compensate for the loss on the subway side.

And then what happened, the photographer asked, although he new the story already.

Well, you know, the times. The station building was too small as a retail outlet. Suburban mega-malls were just emerging after they abolished those agricultural restrictions, and that became the core of all retail activity. The government tried to move many of their semi-public agencies into this building, but there's a limit. So the station building was going nowhere, the new rails and subway bled red ink as planned ... When you look back, it's really amazing. What were we thinking? Well, now the environment is changing, and these station buildings are in a better position. Shouldn't simply auction this off, especially now that this thing has a chance. Some people WANT this thing to be auctioned, though. So things are a bit dangerous for me now.

The investor took the photographer to an empty atrium-like hallway. I kinda like this place, he said. Sort of like a miniature model of this project, with everybody's selfish desires reflected. You can see this way, you can see that way, but inside, it's still empty. We only see our own reflections. How do you like that.

So the photographer took a picture of the place.

As I said, this was like a pilot project to show off that this PFI thing is good. So we thought that the government can't afford to let it fail. That was what we were betting our money on. That was another mistake. If those were humans that we were dealing with, could've worked. But planning computers? Well, well. And since the scheme was too complicated, we investors had all sorts of interests all tangled up, and any work out scheme is almost impossible. The project bond is less than junk now. That really put the nail in the coffin for Japanese domestic project finance. It was difficult to begin with, but now it's plain impossible.

Look at this. Satellite branch of the NASDAQ Japan trading floor. We sort of begged for it, but there isn't any point, really. Floor trades were abolished when I was in high school, and with the low stock market, things are really shitty. Besides, most of the trade is done by computers, especially the rational part. Trade volume is on the rise, but this thing doesn't have to be here, or anywhere at all. There's not much room for people to screw around, humans can't possibly have any link with the government's planning computers. Don't you think this glassy facade looks like the hall before?

So the photographer took another picture. He could see his own reflection.

He asked about the future prospects.

Well, we're getting somewhere now. The rail and the subways will be bought out by the public. That deal is closed. The building, as I said, has hope, and everyone is starting to get reasonable. I think I can come up with some sort of a work out scheme. Talks of the auction? I must say that's a really stupid move, and I won't let that happen. We've already bottomed out. I won't let that happen. I'm not giving up.

Oh well, I had to tell Hamid about this interview. A few days later, the investor was found with his throat cut open, face smashed beyond recognition, thrown inside the bottom of some apartment buildings. An Iranian consortium bought out the project, and a renovation work is on the way.

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