On air: Is big business crucial to countries in crisis?

As Robert Mugabe begins his sixth term as Zimbabwean President with a trip to an African Union Summit, America wants to increase economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. China and South Africa do not. They argue there is no sense in cutting economic ties, and that in fact business and the co-operation and economic support it bring with it, are a force for good. Who do you side with? What role if any should big business play here?

Meanwhile Iraq is reported to be negotiating with oil giants Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP to do more to make the most of its oil reserves. Typical say critics who have long maintained the Iraq war was driven by a desire to get access to the black stuff. Business will never turn down a buck regardless of you how they get it. Typically cynical reply others, who argue there is nothing more logical than bringing in expertise from the private sector to help governments and their people benefit from their resources.

Is big business a crucial part in the development of any country in crisis? Are there circumstances that you could highlight, where multi-nationals have made a bad situation better or worse?

88 Responses to “On air: Is big business crucial to countries in crisis?”

  1. 1 Dennis
    June 30, 2008 at 14:21

    Yes, it is crucial to big business in countries that are having crisis….

    Onondaga Community College
    Syracuse, New York
    United States of America

  2. 2 Colleen
    June 30, 2008 at 14:23

    only if there is true power and profit sharing with the hosting country…. unfortunately in most cases it seems like big business in struggling countries is a way to exploit a disorganized place rather than a way to help and empower the people there.

  3. 3 Brett
    June 30, 2008 at 14:30

    Big business is absolutely crucial. It can be a driving force for positive change, or a force to hold back progress while it sucks the host countries resources dry. It all depends on the morals and ethics of those in charge both within the country and within the business. Leaders of both can be productive and beneficial or selfish and destructive.

  4. 4 nelsoni
    June 30, 2008 at 14:36

    Its a two way affair. If big business are allowed, it could help bring about jobs, economic advancements and all the benefits that goes with it. However if sanctions prevent big businesses from functioning, it could act as a wake up call to the government of the day and more often than not, the common man on the street is the one hit hardest by these sanctions.

  5. 5 Justin from Iowa
    June 30, 2008 at 14:37

    Investment in the country, money flowing in to start up businesses, to start jobs… that is important. Big business happens to be one of the prime sources of that cash in flow, so yes it is important.

    Equally important is a government which is willing to build the infrastructure – roads, electricity, water.. – which business REQUIRES to flourish.

    The more companies have to develop this on their own, the less they are likely to wish to contribute to the state they are residing in… quid pro quo, as it were. (hope I speeeeelled that right)

  6. June 30, 2008 at 14:37

    Big business can certainly accelerate the economic growth of developing countries. Operating without established big business is impossible for developed nations much less those who wish to gain entry into the world markets. Otherwise, these countries will simply fall prey to the market forces driven primarily by big businesses. So, yes, big business is crucial to any developing nation.

    Whether they are immeditaly good for developing nations is another question. In Eastern Europe for example, which is where I am from, the transition from a planned economy to a capitalist model was very rough due to the heavy involvement of foreigh multinational corporations. However, if these companies were not involved, the economies of Eastern Europe would not have been exposed to violent market forces and would still remain stagnant. It’s sink or swim economics.

  7. June 30, 2008 at 14:52

    As for econimic sanctions, these are short-term tools which should be used in conjunction with severe poltical pressure. Ultimately, it is not the leaders who starve but the common people in sanctioned nations. If the world truly wished to ensure democratic process in Zimbabwe, it would have existed there long before last Friday. However, as is common these days, no politician out there wishes to take any actions, especially military for fear of losing reelection and popularity.

    Starving Zimbabwe to death will not depose the Mugabe reguime but only embitter the common people against the rest of the world.

  8. 8 Colleen
    June 30, 2008 at 14:54

    An example of multi-national corporations (Intel, Dell, etc…) making a situation better would be Ireland in the mid 90’s. The unemployment rate dropped over 10% in 6 years and the country’s economy absolutely took off… However there is still poverty and inequality that the governement is now trying to alleviate with it’s new economic strength…

  9. 9 parth guragain
    June 30, 2008 at 14:56

    no sanction against zimb.if america wants to impose sanctions in zimb on the name of democracy then there should be sanction in half of africa.thereare dictators in egypt,libya and many more african countries who dont have any value for democracy.

  10. 10 Ahmad Hammad
    June 30, 2008 at 15:06

    Not the US should react against Mugabe’s tyrannical rule and its perpetuity in Zimbabwe. But the commity of nations should come forward to save humanity in whatever way.

    For example, if Pakistan as a country can’t do anything practical for the Zimbabweans, her journalists at least raise voice against Mugabe in their respective journals, newspapers, website etc…

    All of us should work to make the Zimbabweans realize that they are being humiliated and exploited in the hands of the powerful.

    And that, they should stand up now…

  11. 11 Ahmad Hammad
    June 30, 2008 at 15:08

    More to come on this topic!!!
    It’s a great question Ros…

  12. 12 Zainab
    June 30, 2008 at 15:11

    salam alycom,
    Well of course big business is a very important part in the improvement of any country (in or out of) a crisis. Sanctions do nothing other than increasing the suffering of people.
    Look we in Iraq, have suffered from the economic embargo for more than 13 years, and after 2003, we wished to breathe, we hoped to get rid of the case of “no electricity.” Who can stand this situation no electricity plus a temperature reaches 50 . In fact electricity is not the only problem, there are the sanitation, education, clean water, oil…etc. We need the big companies in all these sides of life not only in oil.
    yours truly
    Zainab from Iraq

  13. 13 selena
    June 30, 2008 at 15:23

    I am going to take an opposite tact.

    I don’t think big business is good for anything except making money for the already rich.

    It would be much better to have self sufficient local economies and trade, as necessary, between communities and countries.

    Now if you believe in winner take all, big business is very good.

  14. 14 John in Salem
    June 30, 2008 at 15:27

    Big business is essential to the development of industry and a robust economy, but we have to make an important distinction – there are the big businesses that work with communities, draw on local labor markets and help establish domestic economies, and then there is big oil – which does nothing but exploit resources and fill the pockets of local politicians.
    All of the companies you name are simply returning to Iraq to pick up where they left off 30 years ago when Saddam nationalized their operations and threw them out. Oil will again flow west, money will flow east to the Iraq treasury and in another 10 years most Iraqi’s will be getting 12 hours of electricity every day instead of 3 or 4.

  15. 15 graceunderfire
    June 30, 2008 at 15:31

    Economic activity is crucial to countries in crisis. I don’t believe this means giving over Zimbabwe to wholesale exploitation; but economic sanctions are not the key to helping either. Mr. Mugabe is a dictator. He currently holds all the cards. If the lives of the common people of Zimbabwe can be improved by facilitating economic growth, even if it means Mugabe wins a few more hands, so be it. It is an advantage of having faith; I know he will not be holding winning cards at the end, and so I pray for him.

  16. June 30, 2008 at 15:32

    @ Selena,

    Although “self sufficient local economies and trade” would be very “nice”, big business is an instrinsic manifestation of human psychology and the natural currents of market forces. Both have the tendency to combine and consolidate small organizations into larger ones in order to increase efficency and market share. Big business will always be there, in ALL economic models, whether capitalist or not.

    In capitalism, big business is represented by Exxon and Microsoft, in centrally planned economies, it is the Government entity and its various branches.

  17. 17 Gretchen Eldrich
    June 30, 2008 at 15:58

    Put me down in the “typically cynical” column. I would turn the topic name around and state that countries in crisis are crucial for big business.

    If there’s a country in unrest or poverty or famine or something like that, it’s a chance for business to establish factories with terrible working conditions and miniscule wages, while claiming to be spreading democratic capitalism. Even better if said country has valuable natural resources like oil…I don’t think anyone can say that the big 4 oil companies are over there “to help Iraq.”

  18. June 30, 2008 at 15:58

    Anglo American’s announcement 25/06/2008 about their impending investment of US$ 400 million in a Platinum Mine in Zimbabwe was extremely strangely timed. That kind of thing gives support to the dictator Mugabe, and one has to ask – who runs Britain’s foreign policy? – it most certainly cannot be the pygmies Brown and Milliband – it must be the Civil Service Mandarins in league with big business. So Britain could not bring democracy to Zimbabwe?… But hang on – the British Government know about a system of fraud-proof voting which has been specially designed for use in the 3rd world… – but they choose not to use it – So what is going on?… Once again 3rd world Dictators, Western Governments and International Companies conspire to rape the resources of 3rd world countries and leave their people poor and in political subjection. Brown and Milliband – shame on you! Mr Alex Weir, Harare and London

  19. 19 Colleen
    June 30, 2008 at 16:00

    Also I think in most cases economic sanctions do not hurt the leaders of countries in crisis. corrupt leaders are going to stay rich and the rest of the country will get more poor… How about the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first gulf war in the 1990’s? those hurt the Iraqi people (i.e. no funding for education, healthcare, etc.) more than it hurt the Iraqi governement?

  20. 20 selena
    June 30, 2008 at 16:00

    “Big business will always be there, in ALL economic models, whether capitalist or not.”

    That is like saying hatred will always be with us.

    It will be unless we decide to change our way of thinking.

    Accepting things as they are stifles change.

  21. June 30, 2008 at 16:10

    “Is big business crucial to countries in crisis?”
    The question is wrong, it should read:
    “Why are countries in crisis so crucial to big business?”
    If there was perhaps one, just one, example where big business has helped a country in crisis, without, that is, lavishly feathering their own nests, there might be a discussion. But it is never so.
    However, there are many examples of big business destabilising a country to the point where it is easy to move in with big promises, that do come true, but rarely for the country in crisis.


  22. 22 Justin from Iowa
    June 30, 2008 at 16:29

    Britain could know a way to make geese lay golden eggs, and Mugabe wouldn’t have anything to do with it. The idea of Mugabe welcomng a fraud proof method of elections, when he required Fraud, Terrorism, Death, and Tyranny to get “re-elected” is laughable. The idea that this is a sign that Britain, Int’l Corps, and Mugabe are all working together in a grand conspiracy, is even more laughable.

    I know the BBC has to allow opinions from every side, but this is simple hate and fear mongering, and should just be tossed out… unless they are trying to make a point by letting this silliness exist on the blog.

    I’m sorry if this is a harsh response for the blog, but a harsh response is REQUIRED.

  23. June 30, 2008 at 16:33

    @ Selena

    “That is like saying hatred will always be with us.”

    “It will be unless we decide to change our way of thinking. Accepting things as they are stifles change.”

    Your romantic view of small business and bartering when necessary is simply impracticable. We cannot sustain material output without big business with population levels of current magnitude. Do you suggest that we artificialy cap population growth? Or perhaps begin liquidating population groups in order to rid ourselves of “big evil corporations”?

    As for changing our way of thinking, we simply cannot at this point. We have to undergo biological evolution before we stray from the idea of big business. Humans as they are right now will always seek to form a government to govern and mediate their affairs and will always combine economic resources to improve efficency, thus forming big business.

    Also, I regret to inform you that hatred will unfortunately always be there as long as the human race exists and war will always be there too. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you these things. One more thing Selena, Santa Claus is also not real.

    We must accept these things as we accept that humans need oxygen to breathe, but we can work toward modifying the effects of these phenomenae to improve the general conditions of people around the world.

  24. June 30, 2008 at 16:35

    This is a very mischievous question. What is crucial for countries in crisis is investigating the cause or causes of the crisis and removing it or them so that the country would have back its peace and security, and the nation would be able to channel efforts to meaningful and purposeful developmental ends without any more interference with her peace and security.

    Prince Awele Odor
    Lagos, Nigeria

  25. June 30, 2008 at 16:35

    Hi Everyone,
    Big business is good for growth of an economy, but when there is crisis, everything will be affected. Including the dogs, cats, and even the cockroaches in the kitchen. Therefore big business will not be spared. The solution is to have good policies and good governance i.e good leadership, excluding leaders like Mugabe.

  26. 26 Vijay
    June 30, 2008 at 16:38

    Is big business crucial to countries in crisis?
    Free trade ,fair trade is needed for all countries but especially developing countries, free movement of goods ,services and technology has a democratising effect because people In open societies are more likely to be employed and have access to better knowledge to base their decisions on.

    The most backward and repressive societies are the ones which restrict trade and knowledge .

    India is failing to provide its population with employment and information because neither foreign companies can freely trade nor can foreign information providers operate independently.

  27. June 30, 2008 at 16:46

    Do you mean Total, BP, Exxon, and Shell in Iraq? That is mischievous. What is crucial for countries in crisis is to investigate the cause or causes of the crisis and to remove it or them so that the country would have back its peace and security, and the nation would be able to channel their efforts to meaningful and purposeful developmental ends without any interferences with their peace and security. Not to do so is both to justify the political interference with the security, peace, sovereignty and independence of nations and to promote the achievement of the political motives for such interferences.

    Prince Awele Odor
    Lagos, Nigeria

  28. 28 nelsoni
    June 30, 2008 at 16:48

    On the other hand, the big businesses have to show sincerety and commitment to the development of their host Countries or Communities. It not should just be a conduitto shipping money back to their home countries. Failure to do this can lead to discontent and could generate crisis just like in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

  29. 29 nelsoni
    June 30, 2008 at 16:55

    @ Malc dow

    thats a very valid point, There are a lot of Companies who stand to benefit more from conflict in country than peace. Take the case or Iraq…

  30. June 30, 2008 at 17:02

    @ Pieray C.P. Odor

    “What is crucial for countries in crisis is to investigate the cause or causes of the crisis and to remove it or them so that the country would have back its peace and security”

    So, have you conducted the same investigations for your country? What did you find was the cause of poverty there and when will Nigeria take its place alongside America and Britain as a leading industrialized nation?

    Admiral Ackbar, Supreme Commander of Rebel Alliance Fleet in Outer Rim Territories.

  31. 31 Virginia Davis
    June 30, 2008 at 17:05

    Historically, one of the factors in abolishing apartheid in South Africa was an international campaign to sanction big business operating in SA. I remember particularly these disinvestment activities waged against colleges and universities which held stock in particular corporations.

    Economic sanctions were effective then; they could be again in the case of Zimbabwe.

    Virginia in Oregon

  32. 32 Paul
    June 30, 2008 at 17:15

    “Negotiations”, what negotiations.
    The U.S. empire has instructed the Iraqi government:
    The chosen corporations Exxon/Mobil, Shell, Total, and B.P. will remove Iraq’s remaining ‘recoverable’ crude oil resources via non-negotiable “No Bid Contracts”. Could there be the oily scent of a ‘Flim-Flam’ in the air?

  33. 33 selena
    June 30, 2008 at 17:29

    Selena smiles at Admiral Ackbar and continues her walk through life with as much serenity as possible.

    There is no hate except that which is learned.

    That which is learned can be unlearned.

    I am not holding my breath.


  34. 34 Lubna
    June 30, 2008 at 17:30

    Hello… When it comes to Iraq, I can tell with complete confidence that the no.1 priority of the foreign intruders wasn’t for sure the liberation of ordinary Iraqis from tyranny and dictatorship or to make their daily lives better… After 5 years of the US led invasion of my Iraq, our daily lives as ordinary Iraqis are still hardly bearable… Here in Baghdad, on some days we get national electricity 6-8 hours per day, on other days we get national electricity only 2-3 hours per day, and sometimes we experience days with 0 hours national electricity per day ! The Iraqi summer is extremely hot and totally intolerable, especially with no electricity ( no cool air ) and with no cold water to drink in the fridge !! We usually use electrical pumps that pull out water from the main water pipes and bring it into our taps, and without using those electrical pumps then you should totally forget about having a tap water in your house.. Sometimes the tap water tastes or smells funny, other times you’d see very tiny things swimming at the bottom of your water glass ! The generator’s man (usually our neighbour who owns a private electrical generator) usually gives us 9 hours private electricity per day for 70 US dollars per month ! Every aspect of daily life in Iraq is actually limping at the moment, education, public services like water supplies, fuel supplies, electricity supplies, ect., national health services, sanitation, everything ! Not to mention of course the massive corruption on every state level in Iraq, from the base till the top of the state pyramid… The giant multi-national oil firm that are going to operate in Iraq do care about only one thing : money, and how to gain very huge amounts of money daily, while benefitting and improving the quality of daily life for ordinarly Iraqis ?? I’m sorry but I don’t think so ! With my love.. Yours forever, Lubna..

  35. June 30, 2008 at 17:34

    @ Selena,

    Your serenity is very admirable and I certainly wish you all the best, but the point I am trying to make is that sometimes, one must deal with raw human nature face to face.

    If we look at human history, we cannot draw a conclusion at which you have somehow arrived. War and hatred cannot unfortunatelybe “unlearned”. As animals it is preprogrammed in us by nature. What we can do however is make concrete plans on how to prevent these instincts from destroying this world entirely.

  36. June 30, 2008 at 17:35

    Every possible means be it effective or not, legal or illegal must be employed to set an example on Mugabe otherwise a dangerous precedent will be set whose end might be disastrous for the continent. Reign in Mugabe now!

  37. 37 Justin from Iowa
    June 30, 2008 at 17:38

    There were people with things to lose from sanctions in SA’s case, Virginia. What are sanctions going to do for a country that has literally hit rock bottom? Are you going to not sell them TV’s which they could never buy anyways? No Ipods for you, Zimbabwe!

    Sanctions aren’t the way to go. Sanctions only work against a country with something to lose, something that will be harmed by those sanctions.

  38. 38 Lubna
    June 30, 2008 at 17:47

    And besides… The oil contracts that the Iraqi government is intending to sign (or has already signed) with those giant multi-national foreign oil companies are actually production sharing agreements that make those giant multi-national foreign oil companies actual partners in our national oil wealth i.e. a certain fraction of our national oil wealth will be theirs ! I just can’t understand how a government is expecting to help out its own people by handing over a certain fraction of the country’s national oil wealth to foreigners !! With my love… Yours forever, Lubna..

  39. 39 nicholas kariuki frm embu
    June 30, 2008 at 17:48

    any sanctions against zimbabwe will only affect ordinary citizens.the answer to zimbabwe is removing mugabe from power by all means.

  40. 40 Shaun from Halifax
    June 30, 2008 at 17:53

    Big business is crucial to countries in crisis. By and large, they have the organization, the infrastructure and the funds to help a restart a country’s economy.

    There is however one large caveat: multi-national companies need to stop viewing the ‘triple bottom line’ with scorn and derision. Once they stop focusing only on the ‘cash’ line in their balance sheets and include the social and environmental effects, they now have broadened their scope to truly help a country.

    By focusing only on making money, big business risks getting into exploitation, corruption, status quo and by extension poor press which leads to lower stock values.

  41. 41 Luz María from Mexico
    June 30, 2008 at 18:13

    I think big business is crucial to countries in crisis but ONLY if the local governments develop adecuate legislation to regulate it. If not, the likelihood that they would become monopolies is high and therefore, the whole idea of contributing to developing is lost.

    The problem lies that foreing investment requieres more state regulation, but foreing investors looks for the opposite when they decide to settle in a country.

  42. 42 Jim - San Francisco CA
    June 30, 2008 at 18:13

    Big business is usually the source of crises. How convenient that they also push to be seen as the solution.
    It is very similar how militarists push countries and conflicts to the brink with arms races or covert actions or refusing to negotiate with enemies, only to then be promoted as the only solution.
    Big business to the rescue of poor people and local economies? Since when?

  43. 43 Jeffrey
    June 30, 2008 at 18:24

    Big Business must be kept out of “aiding” third world countries and countries in turmoil. Large Corporations exploit native peoples and keep them from ever advancing past third world status. Every nation in the world is better off without the involvement of Big Business and much better off without the United States’ aid.

  44. June 30, 2008 at 18:26

    Big business is the problem with many countries. Throughout time the advanced worlds have seen resources that it desired from the less civilied areas. Rather then sending armies to conquer, they learned it is much cheaper and less resources to send wealth business to do the deeds once done by armies. The English wanted land from the Native Americans. The Natives believe “no man owns land”. However, the colonists found somebody to “sell” them the land, and then told them to “get off.” You signed a “business agreement.” In the Middle East the “civilized economies” wanted oil from lands occupied by goat herders and other nomads. Business ventures propped up local thugs who run religious militias to let do “business” with. They sign agreements, build the wells, and protect a resource they really had no claim to. We in the west stand back and wash our hands of it. “Look, its sectarian violence. They are fighting amongst themselves, we had nothing to do with it.”

    As with the last two, big business will be the cause of the next and probably last world war. As the economies emerge, they will want their share of the finite resources.

  45. 45 RORY
    June 30, 2008 at 18:27

    it is no surprise hosni mubarak made no mention of mugabe being a corrupt dictator. hosni mubarak is himself a dictator who rules absolutely crushing any opposition by imprisonment and torture of those who oppose his own autocratic rule.
    egytptian people are suffering equally to those from zimbabwe as manifested in recent food riots bt starving egytptians.

  46. 46 eric swenson
    June 30, 2008 at 18:27

    the sanctions against iraq were ineffective because germany, france, russia and the un food for oil program allowed saddam to have billions of dollars to keep his corrupt regime afloat! sanctions only work if they are comprehensive and strictly enforced!

  47. 47 Richard R Freetown S. L.
    June 30, 2008 at 18:27

    Can Mr Mugabe explain how he receives hard currency from UK Companies both in Retail and Mining Sectors and still complain about colonisation Richard R Freetown S. L.

  48. 48 Shirley
    June 30, 2008 at 18:29

    I feel that today’s globalisation is tied at the hip to “free trade.” Neither of these are intended to help people in crisis-ridden nations. Big business will hurt, not help, countries in crisis; and free trade is the tool by which it is implanted in the developing world. In practise, free trade has become another tool for the wealthy to maintain their elite status by the blood, sweat, and tears of ordinary people in developing countries. Our factories have been ripped from our hard-working hands so that slave-level conditions can be imposed on people in other countries that do not have the laws to back up labour rights. They spew pollutants into the air and destroy water and other natural resources because there aren’t any laws to protect thei environment, or those laws are not enforced. Rather than branching off, leaving behind a successful business in its Western home, and serving as a force by which development and financial wellness can be introduced to other coutnries ahead of a more democratic government, “free trade” has served to uproot factories from the U.S. and transplant them abroad as the toe in the door for U.S. imperialism at the same time as it serves to disenfranchise American workers.

  49. 49 David - Austin, Texas
    June 30, 2008 at 18:34

    If Mr. Mugabe’s actions in Zimbabwe were being done by a colonial power or a white regime, would the African Union stand by and let it happen?

  50. 50 David Texas
    June 30, 2008 at 18:44

    If Mr. Mugabe’s actions in Zimbabwe were being done by a colonial power or a white regime, would the African Union stand by and let it happen?

  51. 51 Tom D F Baltimore
    June 30, 2008 at 18:45

    Of course they are! Big Business is just like Santa Claus, they always bring gifts to the countries they do business in, they bring cheerfulness, joy and light. They never take more than they get, they’re generous to a fault. Big business is the true spirit of Christmas, honesty, universal love and the brotherhood of man!

    Tom D F

  52. 52 Sean, Bahrain
    June 30, 2008 at 18:46

    Being cynical and speaking from a position of first hand experience of being a South African old enough to know what happened to end apartheid I agree with Peter Heynes in that it was the Cold War ending not any sanctions that brought its downfall.

    The rich and the powerful, whites at the time, still made money. Probably more because is was easy slush money . When the US stopped funding the SA Army in its fight against the Cubans in Angola (We battled tested a lot of their equipment) so did apartheid because the money dried up.

    As for big business than the politicians (or foreign governments). They are no better. They are looking out for their shareholder interests not the poor. I am afraid the poor will always be poor because that is what the rich and powerful need and want.

    Having said all that sanctions hurt the poor more.

    As a investment I think Zimbabwe must be a good one. The base is very low so making money would be better than in other markets. They have a well educated population, speak English and are friendly, hungry and keen to work.

    To answer your question I think you should turn it around to “Are countries in crisis crucial to big business?. Unfortunately the one feeds on the other. Yin & yang.

    Sean, Bahrain

  53. 53 Trevor
    June 30, 2008 at 18:48

    The likes of CAMEC who give $200million to the Zim. Govt. for mineral concessions, which paid for the arms they just got, I think they should be brought to book
    even if it is after free and fair elections.
    Regards Trevor

  54. 54 Vijay
    June 30, 2008 at 18:50

    If Margret Thatcher and John Major could deal with Mugabe why couldn’t Tony Blair,it was a failure of leadership and a disdain for the Commonwealth that led to the mismanagement of the phony land reform issue.
    It is too late for sanctions, none of the neighbouring states are prepared to further punish the ordinary Zimbabwean.
    Transnational corporations and donor states with will like China are the “icebreakers” for countries in crisis,because they can absorb the risk better.

  55. 55 Greg B
    June 30, 2008 at 18:52

    Do ordinary people in Zimbabwe take any responsibility for the situation they are in or is all of this everyone else’s fault?

  56. 56 Zainab
    June 30, 2008 at 18:52

    Salam alycom,
    Well i can’t understand how thing is going on in this world!! Whenever their is a country in crisis (usually suffering from a dictator ruler), we see the big countries+ the UN make a deal to impose the sanction. is this the solution??
    The countries in crisis need big business instead of sanction, this sanction will do nothing to Mugabe, he will not leave presidency,(We in Iraq had gone through this before, in 2002, Saddam claimed himself as the winner of the presidency on Iraq, with 99,99% rate of voters, which was so funny cuz there were no other candidates, except him.)
    Sanction will only make people die out of hunger.

    yours truly,
    Zainab from Iraq

  57. 57 Hassan in London
    June 30, 2008 at 18:55

    The only big business that can help Zim are military companies to arm the opposition. This is not an economic problem, its a political one

  58. 58 Andrew Australia
    June 30, 2008 at 18:59

    Big business only cares for big business and to a lesser degree the people in that country only to the extent that happy workers are productive workers. Otherwise business will just relocate to another place with less problems, less strife to get in the way of the bottom line.



  59. 59 Syed Hasan Turab
    June 30, 2008 at 19:01

    The way USA is tackling the political crises of Africa may not work as US Democracy got fall out’s & drawbacks of same nature, even worst then Zimbobwe. No doubt politicians behaviour is more constructive with USA compairing to Democracy & Democrative values.
    If we are annoying with Mr. Mogabee, why we are trying to provide open field to China & South Africa?

  60. 60 Vijay
    June 30, 2008 at 19:06

    @ Shirley
    Thats right Globalisation and free trade means that bloated, inefficient and protectionist regimes (USA ) suffer .
    Jobs and money move to countries where the population is willing to work( a factory job is a dream for people in third world countries because it means a regular income).
    I don’t go for the National Socialist vision of documentary film maker Micheal Moore in “Roger and Me”.
    It is about time jobs moved around the world .

  61. 61 Mark from kansas
    June 30, 2008 at 19:08

    There must be a strong government before the can be legitamate business. The problems start when the business sector gains more power than the people and the government. That is the situation in Europe and America, Oil runs the show, because they hold the power. They hold the keys to a functioning military and to a big portion to the worlds food supply. The people have to go by the wayside to accomadate the oil companies that keep us working, paying taxes, and gets food to our grocery stores. This can lead to stability, but eats away at the democracy of a nation.

  62. 62 selena
    June 30, 2008 at 19:18

    @Admiral Ackbar

    Let’s say you are right and we are animals. Why then, do we pretend to be otherwise?

    My cat is a killer. She doesn’t pretend she is not a killer. Every night she brings back something she has killed.

    If we don’t aspire to be different than *animals*, why don’t we just say we are out for ourselves and be done with it.

    It is the hypocrisy that I can’t abide. Why can’t we admit that we are selfish warmongers, instead of trying to sugar coat our actions?

    My belief is we don’t admit it because we really don’t want to be selfish.

    If that is the case and we want to be better, we much stop being so fearful of others.

    That takes far more courage than war.

    With the world as it is, why does it matter if it is destroyed entirely? 🙂

  63. 63 Lucy M
    June 30, 2008 at 19:25

    Lucy in Seven Hills, Ohio/USA here. I’d like to know what the experts AND citizens of Africa think about those of us living in the U.S.
    forming a grass roots organization that’d first convert the proceeds from donated, “used” diamonds, then send the collective fundsback where they belong: to the exploited Africans. I believe this would garner a little money to give back, but mostly, consumers would build momentum by refusing to be part of the supply and demand chain for blood diamonds. I’d also like to know what part of Africa would most benefit. Thank you.

  64. 64 Emmanuel
    June 30, 2008 at 19:26

    i think that such countriei should be international isolated.Emmanuel in freetown S/LEONE.

  65. June 30, 2008 at 19:27

    “It is the hypocrisy that I can’t abide. Why can’t we admit that we are selfish warmongers, instead of trying to sugar coat our actions?”

    The concept is called politics and diplomacy. We are animals there is no doubt about that. We have the cognitive sense to make our practices more efficent (hence, big business makes our natural skill of growing food more efficent) and we have developed more efficent ways of killing each other too, again, a betterment of our natural drive and instincts.

    “If that is the case and we want to be better, we much stop being so fearful of others.”

    I think people would really like that, but then there will always be a group of people who will take advantage of such an open situation and spoil it by war or terrorist attacks in an effort to make a few bucks.

    Right now, we unfortunately are forced to be fearful of other because there are people out there who will stop at nothing to kill us, no matter how much diplomacy we engage in.

    “With the world as it is, why does it matter if it is destroyed entirely?”

    We have to take the good and the bad. The international situation might be bad, but the people we love bring joy to our lives and offset that evil. The world is eternaly at balance. In a way, it’s like a very cruel and violent game of carrot and stick.

  66. 66 Mark from kansas
    June 30, 2008 at 19:28

    @Greg B
    It is hard to defend youself from a well funded military when you have no food or money for wepons. They guys with the guns make the rules.

  67. 67 Shirley
    June 30, 2008 at 19:32

    Iraq is reported to be negotiating with oil giants Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP to do more to make the most of its oil reserves.

    Please do not lie to us. We know how to read the news. The deals that the huge, multinational, U.S.-based oil corporations are nothing more than contracts to force Iraq to de-nationalise its oil. This is economic imperialism, not economic or entrepreneurial assistance. I would point to the thread “Biggest Armed Robbery” inspired by Lubna, especially this post and this post

  68. 68 Brett in NYC
    June 30, 2008 at 19:38

    I love it in your email you say “Iraq is negotiating…” with Western oil companies. Just who is doing the negotiating here? It is quite obvious that this war was about trying to sneak a last fast-one on a middle-eastern world to prop up a Western way of life that is not only not sustainable but has no reason to be in the state it is in. Ingenuity in Western Universities and Engineering academies could have fixed this oil dependence a long time ago if “Big Business” had had the proper incentive systems in place to reward ingenuity and not protect existing ‘investment’ (by a few) in outmoded ‘infrastructure’ that has way outlived it usefulness.
    NO! decidedly NO! Big business has no role to play in solutions for these developing countries’ challenges.
    Empowering grass roots, self-determination by citizens, SMALL business is the way to save these countries, and as we are going to soon see in the US the way to save the US’ way of life too which is falling fast at the hands of big business, big government and big everything else!
    I am so so surprised to find so many BBC listeners commenting that “big business” in the Western image has a place to play in resolving these crises. It has done such a great job already with them, and with crises at home. We really do have a crisis in the West, a “critical thinking” crisis!

  69. 69 selena
    June 30, 2008 at 19:45

    @Admiral Ackbar

    “We have to take the good and the bad. The international situation might be bad, but the people we love bring joy to our lives and offset that evil. The world is eternaly at balance. In a way, it’s like a very cruel and violent game of carrot and stick.”

    This works for me. But I can take the good with the bad without having fear to cloud my vision. I don’t feel the need to see my neighbor as different and worthy of disrespect, no matter who that neighbor happens to be.

    And if my world comes tumbling down because of something unforeseen, then that same thing has happened to others before me and will keep happening.

    We create chaos and spend all our time trying to uncreate it when…

    in the end it all comes out in the wash. 🙂

  70. 70 blacklion
    June 30, 2008 at 20:11


    All this talk about big [read Western] business in Africa is obscuring the wee little elephant in the room – China. China is utterly disruptive in Africa in more senses than one and its the main reason why Western companies are opposed to sanctions in Zimbabwe. Fear of losing market share, political influence etc. China needs Africa’s minerals to fuel its industiral ascent just like Europe did in the 19th and 20th century. They’ll pay premium prices. Western companies know this too well; that’s why they oppose sanctions in Zimbabwe – fear of losing ground/access in a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.

    China is very good at making cheap, basic goods which is what most Africans want/need/can afford. Not iPods or GPS. Actually, scratch that – cheap Chinese made generic mp3 players are to be found in electronics shops across Africa today.

    China’s presence in Africa is changing the entire ball game very fast. France used to have their former colonies locked into a market space dominated totally by French companies. Today, China is a bigger trading partner with many African countries than the former colonial power.

  71. June 30, 2008 at 20:51

    Actually,America is quite wrong in trying to lay sanctions on Zimbabwe for Mugabe is not Zimbabwe.Let Mugabe be faced as an individual for he is a very bad example.

  72. July 1, 2008 at 05:45

    One could say Big Business has been highly crucial IN CAUSING crises (plural). Sixty plus years ago, here in the US, there were laws, ANTI-TRUST LAWS, precisely to prevent the merging and growth of companies into big business, into conglomerates and corporations. Back then, when we were less greedy and more savvy, BIG business was deemed a threat to real wealth, to the ongoing health of small businesses and small companies, to the health of pop-and-mom shops, to growth and well being from the bottom up, from society’s roots where it counts the most. Today that thinking has been inverted and we’ve lost the ancient values.

    Ros, you ask for examples. Here are four. I lived in northern India from 1989 until 1991. In late 1991, India’s PM, Mr. Rao, under increasing pressure from the US, finally caved-in opening India’s big market to Big Business. Here’s is what I found returning to India in ’95 and what I observed during the next eight years.

    For centuries, possibly millennia, cottage industries have been the mainstay of India’s rural economy providing livelihood to untold millions in rural areas, in villages and small towns–the nation’s backbone. Mahatma Gandhi knew their significance and value and wore ‘homespun’ cotton over imported fabrics, drank from clay vessels rather than the fancier type. Until 1991, India’s cottage industries and allied trades provided healthy and sustainable livelihoods to millions. The potter’s wheel, the home loom, the dyer’s vats; villages of potters, weavers, dyers by the hundreds of thousands supplied the nation with fabrics, vessels and utensils, with bright colors and beautiful crafts.

    1. In the space of four short years the tiny clay cup used all over India to serve milk tea, India’s beloved ‘chai’, became an endangered species nearing extinction. Cheap, clean, naturally degradable and unpolluting, the humble clay cup lost out to the utilitarian paper cup, lighter and easier to transport and whose unsightly litter I now saw everywhere. Worse, thousands of potter villages lost their livelihood to Big Business and its imported city-based industry–for every ten people employed in the cup factories, millions of potter families migrated to cities in search of survival. Without skills, ignorant of city ways, homeless and unable to provide for their families, men and boys by the millions became beggars or drifted into petty crime and drug dealing, the luckier ones joined the masses of cycle rickshaw drivers. Women and girls slid into street prostitution or into city brothels, drugs and worse; the luckier ones became servants. In Calcutta, alongside the Museum of Anthropology, around the corner from shops and restaurants and the hotel where I stayed, ex-villagers come evening time fought for squatters’ rights on sidewalks and doorways and parks. A whole new culture arose, grew and festered like gangrenous growths around the dispossessed. Within Delhi, old shantytowns exploded and in the outskirts new ones popped up. From train windows I saw them, toddlers wading in black water, children playing where others defecated.

    2. The advent of the power loom inflicted this same dynamics on the weaver’s trade and allied cottage industries. The dress of the women and men of India, the sari and the dotti, had been homespun in weaver villages, dyed with dyes extracted from local plants and minerals in dyer villages, and transported to markets by all manner of local vehicles from oxen and hand-carts to rickshaws and trucks. Within weeks and months, the traditional way of life of millions disappeared and whole villages found themselves deprived of livelihood and plunged into penury, the inhabitants migrating to large cities in futile search of jobs and survival.

    The paper cup and the power loom, Big Business industrial imports centered in easily accessible towns and cities produced in one day goods that took the village-based cottage industries a month or longer to make. Paper cups don’t break easily, take less space, are lighter and easier to transport than their pretty but fragile clay counterparts. Synthetic fabrics take and hold chemical dyes, where homespun does not; chemical dyes don’t run; synthetic fabrics last longer, are mass produced and cost far less. Big business and imported industries had won the day; villagers and villages had paid with their lives!

    3. That previously unknown (in India) and now ubiquitous horror of modern life, the abominable plastic bag, now carpeted the once pristine forests and hillsides of my beloved Himachal Pradesh, plugging drainage ditches and sewers everywhere, leading to huge monsoon floods in Mumbai, and causing the death of untold numbers of cows, donkeys and goats in villages, towns and rural areas–a tragedy that led to the loss of income and even livelihoods of still more peasants and villagers who owned one or two cows only and sold milk, yogurt and cheese to the locals. These animals roam free in India and keep roadways and fields clean by feeding on household refuse and garbage, but their systems can’t digest plastic nor do their noses know to discriminate. Maybe by now they have learned!

    4. Worse. India loves bright colors, so few plastic bags were white or colorless–until it was discovered that the heavy metal compounds used to color plastic are highly toxic particularly to children and seeped and leached into vegetables and moist foods carried in them. The heavy metal problem was soon eliminated; the unsightly non-biodegradable polluting bags have not been.

    Four examples of the vast human toll exacted by Big Business and imported industry on the altar of heartless profit and capital growth– all of it paid for by the voiceless masses of no account sentient and not. It is the poor who pay; so does Earth. There are other examples– India’s explosive entrance into computers and the information age is the latest and best known. The middle classes and the bottom classes, both, have grown with and from it–the former up, the latter further down.

    Thus we twirl round and round further out of synch, further down the hole, “until mermaids wake us and we drown.”

    PS. As for Mugabe, America’s penchant for sanctions is the placebo that allows the US government to ignore what gains it nothing. For America’s rulers have but one agenda: corporate wealth and power! Not anybody’s well being. The world ought to have seen that by now!

  73. 73 Kelsie
    July 1, 2008 at 06:10

    That depends on the role “big business” wants to play. Critical to the debate is the need for businesses to concentrate on sustainability and promotion of human welfare–specifically that of children and young people–rather than solely on their profit margin. Unfortunately, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” does not always prove beneficial to those in nations such as Chad, where conglomerates have long exploited entire regions for profit at the expense of the natives.

    Regardless of a business’s “good intentions,” it must be carefully monitored by watchdog groups, NGOs, and other organizations whose interests are less tied into moneymaking and more concentrated on the preservation of human rights and dignity–again, with particular attention to children.

  74. 74 Pangolin- California
    July 1, 2008 at 09:13

    Bad government is the horse that big business rides to obtain big profits. Should the government improve big businesses would most likely have to pay higher wages, improve working conditions and limit toxic emissions. In places like Zim and Columbia the payment of modest bribes to officials results in the death of union leaders and enviros.

    Where big business gets off the leash of local political control it always leads to disaster. A perfect example is the US health care system that pays more per capita than the EU for health care and yet leaves tens of millions without access to care.

    Business needs to feel a tight leash on it’s throat or it quickly turns to pollution and wage-slave conditions.

    July 1, 2008 at 09:50

    Good day Ros,
    This is Fonjong Terence Tah from Cameroon.I’m very grateful to join you in this interesting topic.Many thanks,for your good efford at work.It isn’t right to favour the guilty and prevent the innocent from receiving justice.Hello, Ros,laughter may hide sadness.When happiness is gone sorrow is always there.The decision to be taken by America is good.But there are struggling to take the second step before the first.Implementing economic sanctions on Zimbabwe is like punishing the whole nation.Something should be done to Mugabe.Let the citizens of Zimbabwe not suffer on Mugabe’s behave.People who don’t get along with others are interested only in themselves;they’ll disagree with what everyone knows is right.Let me remind,world Leaders to look for good solution for Zimbabwe.It isn’t good to make an innocent person pay a fine;justice is perverted when good people are punished.And most importantly,when you speak the truth ,justice is done,but lies leads to injustice.What you think is the right way may lead you to death.Rulers are pleased with competent officials,they punished those who fail them.Mugabe shouldn’t take the rights of the people into his hands.Let justice takes its full course.That’s all I’ve for you Ros,I hope to join you some other time.
    Until then,I wish you and the rest of the BBC staff a lovely day.Remain bless.

  76. 76 Jonathan (sanguine San Francisco)
    July 1, 2008 at 10:14

    I assume this is too late to be seen, but I cannot leave unanswered the patronizing, hallucinatory portrayal of India’s recent years as a story of decline, the loss of a noble way of life. It’s amazing that anyone could wax with romantic nostalgia for the good old days of “cottage industry” and basket-case poverty.

    In fact, the recent history of India is an amazine and inspiring elevation out of decades of poverty and famine. The life of the average Indian has vastly improved, the country has become self-sufficient in food, and wealth has increased at all levels, growing far faster than any Western country.

    Lest such mere abstractions as increased GDP, standards of living, and life expectancy prove inadequate to refute the colorful fantasy, I will point out that in India, an “increased standard of living” does not mean buying a third car. It means that millions of people live instead of dying. Millions of children get nourishment to develop normal brains and organs. Millions more can buy medicine, or manage to educate a child, for the first time.

    It’s patronizing and decadent to contend that the people of India were better off in grinding poverty and starvation because their teacups were prettier.

  77. 77 James Chibanga from Lusaka
    July 1, 2008 at 13:12

    Big business is crucial to countries like Zimbabwe to improve the economic status of many in that country. BUT these big business tend to be like the saying of “he that pays the piper choses the turn”because the start to support any group that, they fell would give them good deals when in power ,instead of the general welfare of the common man in street of Harare.Remember in DRC the so called Financial powers are the ones that perpetualty the War in that country.THEY ARE NEEDED BUT WITH PROPER REGULATIONS to contain their Influence.

  78. 78 James Chibanga from Lusaka
    July 1, 2008 at 13:22

    Big business is crucial to countries like Zimbabwe to improve the economic status of many in that country. BUT these big business tend to be like the saying of “he that pays the piper choses the tune”because they start to support any group that, they fell would give them good deals when in power ,instead of the general welfare of the common man in street of Harare.Remember in DRC the so called Financial powers are the ones that perpetualty the War in that country.THEY ARE NEEDED BUT WITH PROPER REGULATIONS to contain their Influence. China use your Status Economically to change things in Zimbabwe do’nt drag your feet like in Sudan were Innocent people are dying. South Africa the World is looking at you!SO ACT NOW and save your neighbours.Remember freinds like Zambia helped YOU.

  79. 79 Ogola Benard
    July 1, 2008 at 15:44

    The future of the “dented image” of Zimbabwe with the world bank and European union as the sole funder to the central treasury whose governing head is appointed and is as well loyal to Mugabe, a re known dictators.

  80. 80 Vernon
    July 1, 2008 at 15:54

    Mugabe: Thank you dear voters for giving me the chance to rest from my 28 year labour as president at last, but I owe it to you rather to complete the work I began. We are nearly there as you can see, just be patient and we will have the job done fully.

    Oh, the tragedy of it all – where there is so much potential and resources why must it be messed up time and time again? Where are the leaders of noble character, the wise statesman, the unselishly motivated. Can South Africa at least get it together before it is also too late, with a co-operation between leaders of all communities to work out a strategy for future prosperity for all on the subcontinent and beyond. I hope big business can play a role but without the selfish exploitative tendancies.

  81. July 1, 2008 at 19:58

    what china and saudi arabia are talking about is only a fat joke. i would rather eat with a dog on the same plate than accept Mugabe as aa president of an african state. however i admit that Mugabe and his corhots will continue eating even when the last drop of food is ut from reaching Zimbabwe. the people will be the ones to sufer. however the interests of china in this are vrey clear. selfishness as ever. i am not surprised.


  82. 82 Emile Barre
    July 1, 2008 at 23:13

    I think the golden calf is a very attractive animal unless you happen to be Moses.

  83. 83 Philip
    July 2, 2008 at 14:46

    As a US citizen in exile in protest at the outrageous, illegal, and immoral policies of my government around the world during the past 7+ years, I would ask: “Where were you, United States, when apartheid was booming? Did you support economic sanctions to oppose racism?” Why are economic sanctions suddenly the way to go now? Why weren’t they the way to in Iraq??????

  84. 84 steve
    July 2, 2008 at 14:49

    @ Philip

    Something tells me that you wouldn’t have spoken up against Stalin killing MILLIONS of people in the USSR, yet you criticize the US for the actions of other nations.

  85. July 3, 2008 at 00:39

    The US’s stiff move to enforce and even add more sanctions in Zimbabwe is morally good and the right thing to do. Robert Mugabe has lost direction and vision for the country of Zimbabwe. What he is doing is not what Zimbabweans fought for. Mugabe and Zimbabwean War-Vets ought to know better about the pain of human suffering at the hands of a cruel government. Ian Douglas Smith’s rule was the reason why Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe and the rest of the war-vets staged a guerrilla warfare against the Rodesian Front. Unfortunately, Robert Mugabe has curved into the same vices, the very system he and others fought for against the minority White rule.

    This is not something to laugh about. Zimbabweans cross the border into South Africa every day, with some dying on the way. Mugabe has betrayed his own people. I think sanctions will force him to face his fate and has a possibility to wake up the Zimbabwean church which over the years has failed to empower people to over come their fear of confronting Mugabe. Which one is not death, dying in one’s room or dying in the streets demonstrating against Mugabe?

    Also, I think UN and OAU are a joke and are no longer relevant to combat the 21st century ills. The alternative way would be to mobilize a strong OAU force to oust Mugabe. Right now Zimbabweans should be thinking about post Mugabe Era, rather than celebrating another term. Mugabe is now 84 years old and we are not talking about a 53 year-old man, but 84. I think the reason why Mugabe does not want to relinquish power is that he is afraid to face justice. He knows exactly what he has been been doing all these years, killing people like Sadaam Hussen of Iraq.That’s how stupid it is: How can Mugabe celebrate his victory over Morgan Tswaqngirayi when he was contesting against himself? A normal person can never do anything like that.

    I strongly disagree with those who opt for negotiations. How does one negotiate with some one who wants to kill him? Well, Mugabe does not want to kill, instead, he has already been killing people and he continues to do so. I am also perplexed by those who now live out side Zimbabwe and yet continue to support Mugabe and his regime. The truth is that no one with good spirit can support Mugabe’s policies unless that person is benefiting from such a system. While it is true that some people got the farms confiscated by the government from the White Farmers in Zimbabwe, it is also equally true that some Zimbabweans who left the country got these farms and are happy with the status quo because they are benefiting from the system. So, they fear that if Mugabe relinquish power to Morgan Tswangirai, then they will lose these benefits which were created by Mugabe to make his core supporters happy including some army generals so that they are happy and so will continue to provide Mugabe with a strong security system.

  86. July 3, 2008 at 00:41

    Yes, Mugabe must GO!

  87. July 3, 2008 at 00:50

    I agree with Mutebe, Henry, that China supports Mugabe for selfish reasons. Recently Chine sold Mugabe weapons. Mugabe has the money to buy weapons from China, but he does not have money to feed Zimbabweans? I have nevr in my adult life seen any one like Mugabe. “Where there is no vision, people perish”. This is exactly what is happening in Zimbabwe and OAU Head of States needs to take action, but will they?

  88. 88 prince
    July 3, 2008 at 10:45

    From my own opinion about the question, countries in crisis should not think about going into any business venture but to come together and see how they can resolve issues in their country.

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