Big business can unite the world

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am
 

Ever since the world economy began to open up, there have been supporters and critics of globalisation. This is the process by which businesses and other organisations gain influence abroad, or operate on an international scale.

Critics have said globalisation widens the gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots', the rich and the poor. But globalisation takes away trade barriers and opens up the markets to everyone.

Besides the obvious benefits to the global markets and economies, we'll look at other sectors that have benefitted from globalisation.

Social

Globalisation has allowed big corporations to do more business all over the world and remove trade barriers. Companies can choose who they want to work with.

One example of this is that coffee producers, such as Starbucks and Nestle, can purchase raw materials, including coffee beans, directly from the growers themselves. This practice of buying fair-trade coffee offers the growers a better, guaranteed minimum price for their products.

If the market price goes over the maximum set price, they will receive a premium according to weight. With the increase in the profits of the sales of their products, the farmers' standard of living and working conditions will be improved.

In the past, middle men paid less than the market rate to farmers for coffee cherries - the raw materials for coffee beans. Then they would sell the cherries at a higher market rate; the farmers never saw the profits.

Fair trade farmers belong to a co-operative of fellow local growers and together they determine what to do with the profits. The money is usually reinvested back into local communities for schools, healthcare and housing.

Globalisation helps corporations get to know the people they are dealing with so they become more socially responsible to communities and the environment. An improved standard of living means poor families will no longer be forced to send their children to work to support their families. Child labour can be eliminated and they can focus on getting an education.

Technology

The world has become an international supply chain through globalisation; products are cheaper to make in the countries where raw materials used to their manufacture are found. It saves time and money to transport finished parts from different places, rather than have raw materials shipped abroad and the parts then produced and assembled.

Boeing, the American aircraft manufacturer, used this idea to build its newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. It employed overseas suppliers from Asia and Europe to finish 70 per cent of the massive 63m-long jet. The wings were built in Japan, the wing tips in South Korea, the passenger doors in France, landing gear parts in the United Kingdom and wing flaps in Australia. Once the parts were built - often at the same time - they were flown to Boeing's American factory for final assembly. Combining the different parts of the aircraft can be completed in three days.

The money it saved on production makes the aircraft more affordable to airline companies. Airlines would have to pay about US$300 million for the popular Boeing 777, but the new Dreamliner is about US$70 million cheaper. Many features on the aircraft are new and have been made possible because of the international co-operation.

The Dreamliner is the world's first large airliner to use an airframe made of carbon-fibre composite rather than aluminium. Boeing worked with Japan's Toray Industries - which specialises in making sturdy, yet lightweight carbon-fibre composite materials - to help build the fuselage. Half of the aircraft has been built from composite materials, making it lighter but also more durable than aluminium.

Health

As the world becomes more and more accessible, world travel has increased. As more people move around the world, the threat of the spread of previously localised disease has also increased. Although globalisation has enabled this spread, it has also helped save many lives, as medical tools and methods from developed countries are being introduced to places that did not have access to them before.

Global diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, can be controlled and eventually be eliminated. Tuberculosis is a contagious, bacterial disease that affects the lungs, and other parts of the body. It is prominent in populous areas as it is spread through the air and killed an estimated 1.7 million people in 2009. Tuberculosis is curable, but requires patients to take at least four different medicines. Poorer countries, or those without an effective health care system, do not have adequate resources to cure it.

Malaria, a potentially fatal fever caused by a parasite that invades red blood cells, is transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease is found in many subtropical and tropical regions such as Africa, where mosquitoes breed in pools of water. It has been evolving and some drugs once used to cure it are no longer effective. But it can be prevented fairly cheaply, if the drugs are made available.

Globalisation helps the exchange of healthcare information and initiatives, such as the campaign to eradicate polio, a viral disease causing paralysis, and alliances providing vaccines and immunisations to prevent or control epidemics.

Culture

The exchange of information and ideas between countries has been made possible by globalisation. One obvious driver of this is the internet, as more and more countries become connected to the World Wide Web. The information includes not only entertainment, but also education.

Since last December, a large movement across the Arab world has protested against dictators and families that rule with absolute power. The Arab Spring revolutionary campaign led to widespread demonstrations and protests - things that were previously brutally suppressed. It led to the successful overthrow of rulers, including Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. People used social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to spread messages of discontent and organise the gatherings. They also uploaded videos and pictures of their protests, which helped attract the attention of the media.

The Arab Spring campaign partly inspired the recent Occupy Wall Street movements. Organisers shared information and ideas via computers - helping to emphasise the power and influence of the web. Starting in Kuala Lumpur in July and moving on to US cities, including New York and San Francisco, crowds took to the streets to protest about social and economic inequality. They were angry about large corporations influencing government policies. Similar protests have taken place in more than 900 cities in 82 countries around the world.

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