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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 13:22 GMT
Should the power of the multinational corporation be curbed?
The fallout from Enron's collapse has demonstrated that few countries are immune from the effects of big multinational corporations - for better or worse.

This recent scandal has brought into question the ability of governments to monitor and regulate powerful financial institutions.

Should an international independent regulating body be appointed to limit the power of multinationals? Or should the onus fall on individual governments? Tell us what you think.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


It is hard to see any justification for the ways in which big corporations lobby governments

Tom Smith, Switzerland
Whether or not you are encumbered with the ideological baggage of enthusiasm for free-market economics, it is hard to see any justification for the ways in which big corporations lobby governments and receive massive hand-outs from them. The first thing that is needed is for the law to recognise that money should not be allowed to buy influence with politicians. Unless this is done then any attempt to introduce political control over multinational companies is doomed because the bodies set up will be controlled by the corporations themselves.
Tom Smith, Switzerland

If multinational companies are allowed to expand without some form of control we will eventually find that decisions that affect us as individuals will be made within those boardrooms by unelected individuals, not by elected governments.
Issac Brock, Canada

Where there is capitalism, you don't talk about democracy.
Shan Mylvaganam, Ceylon/UK

I do not believe that an international organisation can "regulate" multi-national companies in a general way. But such an organisation could effectively regulate specific issues, such as the rights of staff of these companies over their pension money! Or the rights of consumers for safe products.
Daan, Netherlands

Historically, on a national scale, business has always been conducted within a framework of laws. The so-called "free market system" has, in fact, always been regulated by law. However, with the advent of multinational corporations there has developed no corresponding framework of international regulation. Such an international legal framework is essential for the simple reason that no economic enterprise is really self-regulating.
Patrick Smiley, USA


What is needed is an efficient system of regulators

Shantanu Dutta, India
I do not think that the power of multi-national companies can be curbed or is even desirable. From the perspective of countries like India, which had quasi socialist economies for years, the coming of multi- nationals has meant access to quality products, better customer services and availability of the latest technology. But of course multi-nationals are not there to do charity. They are there to reap profits and hopefully enhance value to their shareholders, though even that did not happen in the case of Enron. So what is needed is an efficient system of regulators - maybe not one but many regulators so that adequate checks and balances are provided. The challenge in the developing world is to do that without adding red tape and providing another avenue for corruption to flourish.
Shantanu Dutta, India

The government of the people, by the people and for the people, was buried in Wall Street and the new democracy today we have is government of the corporations by the corporations and for the etc!
Khalid Rahim, Canada

No, multi-nationals should have more power -they transcend physical borders to expand trade culture and information far more effectively than diplomatic corps. Now everyone loves England because of Cadburys and not Jack Straw.
Parth Vasa, USA

What happened in Seattle and elsewhere, has shown us that there is a growing discontent with the way multinationals operate and take advantage of cheap labour in developing countries, without generating enough benefit to the workers. The problem is unlikely to be solved by setting up an international independent regulatory body since it will not command much enforcement power, as there will not be consensus amongst the great powers, who tend to benefit from the operation of the multinationals.

The best means to deal with the excessive power of the multinationals seems to be that the government deal directly with the foreign multinationals and negotiate the best deal for the local economy and implement effective distributive policies, so that the benefit of freer trade trickle down to the people at the bottom as well.
Yong Wook Ryu, New Zealand

It is all well and good saying that a multitude of regulations should be introduced but we must remember the problems regarding finding and enforcing suitable policies. History has shown us that if there is a will there is a way - loopholes will always be found and exploited. However, the world is changing and in this day and age where capital flows are dangerously volatile, the regulation of powerful financial institutions could help to minimise the risk and extent of financial catastriophes.


The idea of an international independent regulatory body is a good concept, but there are still some limitations of this notion

Purna Maharjan, US
As many governments are not in a position to develop and implement effective and fair regulatory policies, an international body appears to be the best option, despite risks of a mis-representation of world interests, as it would provide an arena for discussion and so forth that may just lead to a useful solution.
Alistair Good, England

Many proponents of a truly free market would argue that we, the consumers, 'vote' for the corporations via our wallets. Why is anything else necessary?
James, UK

An international independent regulating body would be just a back door way of curbing free enterprise. We might as well become communists, and take out the term "progress" from our vocabulary.
Naved, USA/Pakistan

All power by anyone over anyone should always be curbed, period.
Regine, Belgium


If we have all these protests over the WTO right now, what do you think this "new independent governing body" will spawn?

Chester McDouglas, UK
The idea of an international independent regulatory body is a good concept, but there are still some limitations of this notion - risk of confidentiality of the company, structural difficulties of the company bord, and harm to the company's motive of profit maximization, ecterera.
Purna Maharjan, USA

If we have all these protests over the WTO right now, what do you think this "new independent governing body" will spawn? How will it enforce its decisions if not through the WTO? And in the end, I'd rather trust the multinational whose motives I do know (profit) than some global regulating body.
Chester McDouglas, UK

It is a very good idea to have a global body that can monitor these multinationals. After all most of these companies originate from powerful countries that have a vested interest in making sure that they prosper. Who can oppose these powerful countries in a world where there is a large gap between rich and poor?
Billy Steward, USA

There should be absolutely no international authority to govern the actions of corporations. It would lead to a lot of controlling of world economies and would give the richer nations more control over the third world economies. If a country does not like certain corporations or their products, they are free to restrict them on their own soil, but they have no right to tell other countries that they have to restrict a corporation or anything of the sort.
Shankar, USA/India

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