Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Capitalism. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

I was all worked up - and continue to be - about the difficult situation of the boys in the warehouse, the low wages, the insane hours accepted without protest...

Life in upper management is easy. *My* life is easy...

I attended a series of meetings with Hugh Marlboro this afternoon that really got me thinking. He has two big projects in mind - one is an expansion of the Banana Empire's current operations; the other is a new venture altogether, but has the potential to create many jobs and generate significant revenues for the Province of Maptuo, as well as, obviously, for Hugh Marlboro himself.

I come out of meetings such as these invigorated, excited about the possibilities of entrepreneurism, motivated by the transformation potential on a national level of these types of projects. Then I go back to work, look at the reality of my warehouse friends, and become more of a realist.

I think the Banana Empire - along with most profit-oriented businesses (certainly those in the developing world, but I think in general) - could stand to provide better wages and more benefits (who am I kidding...ANY benefits!) to their front-line workers.

However, I clearly see the other side to this coin.

Hugh Marlboro is the largest employer of women in Mozambique outside the Government. Think about this for a minute. It is a pretty incredible statistic. He employs nearly 1,000 workers in rural areas of the country where there are painfully little job opportunities and the population has significant aid-dependence.

Thus comes the age-old development quandary: is it better to provide employment, any employment, even if it means measly wages, long hours and no benefits? Is this better than the alternatives of joblessness and destitute existance, and total dependence on foreign aid or the State (oh, wait, they are also dependent on foreign aid!) for subsistence??

I flip-flop in my evaluation of this argument on perhaps a monthly basis. Sometimes I see the clear benefits of Capitalism with a capital 'C'. How else can you ensure real accountability and efficiency in service provision? How else can you create a market that will be self-sustainable and not clogged with subsidized, unfeasible entities? On the other hand, there are the clear social downsides to this model...



Amber said...

I find this post, and the one before this so interesting. Thanks. I am wishing the very best for your friends!

I do believe Capitalism is the best system, but you are so right about the down sides. But I tend to think of those as human failings, more than the system. People's greed always comes into play. And look at us here in California...Would we have the illegal immigration issue that we have, if people were willing to pay good wages? Hell no. Employers want the slave labor, really. They want people they don't have to treat well, or respect their rights. If they did pay what they should, Americans would go back to those jobs, instead of falling back on the system. And the business owners don't give a crap, because they don't directly see how this hurts their own bottom line, right? It is the middle class tax payer that really gets screwed. So this way they get workers they can cheat, and a bigger pay day. Mexicans get used and Americans in the middle class get bent over. ;(

Yes, much could be improved.


Linda said...

Complex questions about Capitalism. I think, perhaps, people like having a job and earning money, as long as they aren't starving on very small wages. How hard it must be to live like that.

Guilherme said...

Hi Ali,

I've also been "lurking in the shadows" as someone else pointed out recently, for a while, ever since you posted about Nadine Gordimer's "The Pickup". I thought this was as good an opportunity to introduce myself (sort of, I'll send you a proper e-mail) as any.
The issues you raised today are sth. I think about on an almost daily basis, but being the dyed-in-the-wool commie that I am, the jury is still out.
I enjoy reading your impressions of my fellow countrymen and our lusophone cousins in MZ enormously. You definitely have a flair for communication, I can only hope, for your own sake, that business is really your "praia".

Do keep up the AWESOME work!



Ednei - Mgá said...

Olá garota

Sabe que já se passou tanto tempo que eu perdi o teu e-mail e mal lembrava o endereço do teu blog. Ainda bem que existe o google.
Olha só, eu sei que esse meu post pouco está relacionado ao captalismo, marxismo eu seja lá o que for. Esse post é pra enganar a saudades e também pra fazer propaganda de um outro blog que praticamente mudou a minha vida: sombarato.blogspot.com

Um beijão pra você e desejo que 2008 seja repleto de realizações, paz e abundante saúde.

Ali la Loca said...

~Amber - Yes, there are many parallels to be drawn with the immigration situation in the US. Again, the question remains, is it "better" to have access to a job and wages, no matter how low the pay or insane the hours, than face unemployment and few possibilities in one's home country? Tough to say, especially when you're not the one in the situation yourself...

~Linda - I agree, there is pride in having a job, any job.

~Guilherme - Alô! I'm so pleased that you commented - it's always nice to "meet" the people who are reading my blog. I'm really looking forward to your email. beijos!

~Ednei - Caramba, quanto tempo!!! Que bom que você me encontrou aqui. Já tinha dado uma olhada nesse blog, é muito legal. Me manda um e-mail pra gente botar o papo em dia: rosa_brazil at yahoo dot com. Saudades!!