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PRESENTER: In "Sound Off" today we have Gloria Forrest, lecturer in Manpower Studies at Hertford University. Gloria, it's your chance to sound off on the subject of globalisation.
GLORIA: Thank you, Mark. Now, with the rise of the multinational company and the links between industries from one country to another, everyone will have heard the buzzword 'globalisation'. It is part and parcel of perceiving the whole world, in the wake of the information technology revolution and the lowering ot trade barriers, as one enormous global village.
Big business is, if you don't mind my stating the obvious, big. Large multinational corporations, or MNCs for short, currently account for approximately one fifth of world output and seventy percent of world trade. As you may imagine, MNCs, being the employers and paymasters of so many people worldwide, are able to wield more real power than national governments. These governments, for their part, are ever keen to attract MNCs and encourage them to set up shop in their countries.
You may feel that, as these companies are willing and able to provide work, especially at a time when unemployment is on the increase in so many parts of the world, where is the harm in that? The harm is in the fact that, due to activity by these companies, the gap between rich and poor is growing wider. In 1960, the average per capita Gross National Product, or GNP, in the twenty richest countries was fifteen times that of the twenty poorest, whereas today that gap has widened to thirty times, because wealthy countries grow more rapidly than poor ones. From their home bases and head offices in prosperous, developed countries, MNCs reach out to find cheap labour for their third-world sweatshops, favoured by weak or non-existent working regulations and non-unionised labour. Such a situation frequently gives rise to rampant abuse and exploitation of the workforce, particularly women and children, who work tor long hours in bleak conditions for little return Frequently, their health is endangered, too. So if MNCs are doing all this harm, how can if be remedied? The need is for governments in developing countries to promote and encourage local enterprise, instead of falling into the multinational trap which discourages local investment, forces local industries to close down, provides jobs that are by their nature insecure and last only as long as the MNCs interest in a particular country, and creams off profits instead of re-investing them locally.
By fostering local industry, governments of developing countries will be making their products more competitive, rather than driving down the prices of home-produced goods as foreign goods come flooding onto the market. The need is, I must stress, for competitiveness, not for protectionist policies, which are not effective in a free market economy.
Although there are those who argue that, in accordance with the 'trickle-down' theory, the free trade driven by MNCs makes us all richer, and that to close the door to globalisation would only hurt the poor, the presence of MNCs in their countries saps local initiative and siphons off funds instead of investing them for the betterment of workers' living conditions.
Globalisation's opponents make their views heard by vociferous and high-profile protests whenever and wherever conferences for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are held, managing to get into TV and newspaper reports. Far from being the dissident voices of far-left or anarchist weirdos, these protesters are people who are not afraid to stand up against the forces of corporate greed. In a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this may be seen as a losing battle. Nevertheless, in the fight between David and Goliath, we should always remember that it was David who won.
The entire world is now seen as one big
Multinational corporations control about
of international commerce.
The GNP in
rich countries is now
greater than that in poor
third-world labour for MNCs in encouraged by
in Third World countries should support
It is not a good idea to have
protectionism in a
Despite opinion to the contrary,
MNCs do not improve
for the workforce.
Protests are staged at conferences
held by the International Monetary Fund and the
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