Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bring on the multi-nationals Bob

A couple of years ago I was taken around a township on the edge of Port Elizabeth in South Africa by a group of ANC members. The poverty was, of course abysmal, and descriptions of similar scenes can be found in any of the weekend papers.

One small part of the drive around took us past a huge Ford plant. My hosts were keen to point this out and talked happily about what Ford had done for the area. As well as paying decent wages to the workers they had set up health and education facilities for local people.

Now I can almost hear any of the usual anti-capitalist crowd decrying this and saying that Ford only went there because they could pay low wages and it is in their own interests to have a healthy and educated workforce.

In fact, whatever their failings, multinationals are not staffed with evil monsters but with men and women with families and concerns for the areas they live and work in.

Whatever their reasons the wages paid there were far higher than most of the youths living on that township would have earned elsewhere, and the health and education facilities were very welcome.

India and China are rapidly transforming themselves into first world countries and they have done so partly by encouraging inward investment from around the world.

Aid and debt relief might solve some of the immediate problems in Africa and I hope that the G8 summit helps to deliver this but they are not a long term solution. What is also needed is an end to the corruption and civil war which has blighted the continent, and, controversial though it may be, lots more multinationals like Ford going there to make a profit.


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