Thursday, August 27, 2009

Corporations, donations, democracy and Lyin'air.con

I dont feel comfortable when multi-national corporations use their money and influence to promote their own agenda in a country.
Multinational corporations may be 51 out of the top 100 GDP's in the world, but they have lttle 'national' identity left.

Corporate requirements can override the democratic decision making progress of  sovereign nations.
We have seen so often the result of the need for corporations to make money takes presidence the most basic human rights and environmental considerations.

We have seen recently in the US how large corporations such as health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies use professional lobbyists to manipulate public opinion and fight universal health care - a human right - by spreading half truths and confusing the basic issue.
The United States, the worlds leading economy is the last developed nation to not have a national health service.

But from the sick denied healthcare in the US to the increased privatization and degrading of private healthcare in Ireland we know the results of the neo liberal economic model, and we will look at this in relation to Lisbon next Thursday.

Indeed, one of the major supporters of the Lisbon treaty in Ireland, Brendan Halligan, already runs a lobbyist company, CIPA (former employers of Andrew Byrne of Generation Yes) who allegedly act on behalf of the tobacco industry in the EU.

This neo-liberal economic trend is global, bank bail outs, toxic debts nationalised, from the child labour sweatshops producing garments to the logging of the Amazon, from the suppression of dissent in Nigeria to the open strip mines in Argentina.

Corporations are not evil, they are simply amoral. Their primary consideration is to make as much money for shareholders as possible.
That is their job.
Reduction of labour costs by using children in the third world where it is allowed or the bypassing of environmental considerations by outsourcing to countries where laxer controls allow for reduced costs all contribute to that increased profit margin and share value.

Several multi-national corporations with operations in Ireland such as Microsoft, Glen Dimplex and Intel have thrown their weight behind the second Lisbon referendum in Ireland, the last democratic obstacle in the way of its implementation.
Intel, Dimplex or Microsoft could cut labour costs in the morning by transferring production to Eastern Europe or other countries, which they no doubt will do unless Irish workers accept reduced pay and conditions.

They tell us that a more efficient EU would sustain economic growth nationally as well as promote international trade.
I agree – but at what cost. I have long said I have no objection to the European Union, provided it is for the benefit of the People of Europe.

Along with them, Ryanair have come onside in the campaign for a Yes vote – so lets deal with them, at least Ryanair is Irish.

The Chairperson of PANA, Roger Cole said the Ryanair announcement was not a surprise to him. He has said previously that limits must be placed on the amount that private companies could spend in a referendum or election campaign.

This is particularly needed in our democracy in light of the BCI decision not to give equal treatment to both sides of the debate.
It is not reasonable that the Irish media give such coverage to money was being spent by bodies such as Libertas on a No campaign, but have little to say about similar sums of money being spent by companies such as Ryanair and Intel to promote a Yes vote.

The Standards In Public Office Commission, the independent body which oversees spending in elections and referendums, confirmed yesterday there was no spending limit for individuals and companies.

This essentially means we could have a company from the US, the UK, Germany, Russia, China, Algeria or North Korea coming to Ireland and spending vast amounts of money advocating a Yes vote with few restrictions or control.
A spokesperson said the commission, in its annual report, had called for a redefinition of what constituted a “third party”, subject to limits on spending in a referendum campaign.
It argued that the definition should not be determined on the basis of whether an individual or group had received a donation, but should focus instead on how much they spent. They should be regarded as “third parties” if they intend spending over a certain threshold.

Mr Cole said the Irish people had rejected the Lisbon Treaty last year in a democratic vote. “Now they are being forced to vote again on exactly the same treaty…these same firms.....who have a vested interest.....can spend billions of euro bullying the Irish people into submission.”
Well, at least not all of them want to charge us to use a toilet.
An EU court in 2008 backed Ryanair in a battle with state aid regulators on how far small airports can use public money to attract low-cost carriers.

The ruling from the European Union's appeals court allows Ryanair to keep a very sweet deal, a discount of more than €4 million that it received from the Belgian Walloon regional government to help run flights out of the state-owned Charleroi airport.
The Walloon Region gave Ryanair a half-price deal on landing charges that are usually fixed by regulation and promised to compensate the airline if it lost money on any changes to airport charges.
The airport would also help fund Ryanair's costs and pay it €1 per passenger for ground handling — rather than the €10 it charges other airlines.
In return, Ryanair pledged to base two to four aircraft at the airport and turn each around at least three times a day. The deal was for 15 years.

EU regulators ruled in February 2004 that parts of the Ryanair contract were illegal state aid and must be changed, which Ryanair appealed in an EU court.

But recently an EU Court said the European Commission was wrong to demand Ryanair refund the sum in 2004, and antitrust regulators had made a technical mistake when deciding the payments were an illegal state subsidy by not checking whether private investors would also have offered Ryanair low fees to start using the airport.
Mr. O'Leary now says the court decision also makes meaningless other EU investigations into claims that Ryanair received illegal subsidies at eight other airports in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Slovakia

Co-incidentally, it wasonly after the Court ruling Mr. O’Leary announced he favored Lisbon and would campaign for it. The treaty is being supported by Ryanair to the tune of €500,000.

There is also the fact that Mr. O Leary has long wanted to take over AerLingus - his main rival on the Irish market.
This would lead to a monopoly, as stated in the EC ruling of 2007.

But the more recent court favourable judgment on the indirect subsidies from in Belgium seem to have given Mr. O Leary a reason to support the Lisbon Treaty
Ryanair - Shafting you at home

Ireland is an Island nation. It is vital to the national interest that we have frequent and economic air transport to Europe and the rest of the world.

Aer Lingus was our national airline, but increased privatization encouraged by the EU with regulations on state subsidies and competition is causing problems.

According to the Irish Times August 27 2009 AerLingus is planning a review of its business after reporting a sharp increase in losses due to downward pressure on fares and a highly uncertain outlook.
Aer Lingus losses after tax in the six months to the end of June had widened a massive 242% to €73.9 million on revenue down 12.2% at €555 million.
This is an operating loss of €93 million compared with a shortfall of €23.4 million for the same period a year earlier.

Aer Lingus were guilty in the past of extremely high prices when they had a monopoly on Irish flights, so this made flights very expensive. The arrival of Ryanair competed with this, leading to a reduction in prices. We have learned in Ireland in particular that free and fair competition in the airline business is good.

Ryanair has become the dominant force in Irish aviation, publicly promoting free markets and attacking any subsidy given by governments to state airlines, regardless that they may be needed for strategic reasons.

Ryanair strongly oppose any government interference in their business, as long as they themselves are not the beneficiary, this is a dual standard.

Despite a very public commitment to consumer choice, competition and a free market Ryanair already owns almost 30 per cent of AerLingus (about 4% more than the Irish Government) and said in a statement in 2008 it wanted a “merger of the two airlines into one strong Irish airline group under common ownership”

In December 2008 Aer Lingus rejected a Ryanair €748 million takeover bid, saying the offer significantly undervalued the carrier.
This is probably true in the current economic situation.
In December 2006 Ryanair withdrew its first €1.48 billion bid for AerLingus, due to an investigation by the EC.

The EC has been concerned that the takeover would reduce consumer choice and increase fares. In June 2007, the European Commission announced their decision to block the bid on competition grounds saying the two airlines controlled more than 80% of all European flights to and from Dublin airport.

Despite its dedication to neo-liberal economics, Ryanair is happy to create a monopoly and accept state subsidy, directly or indirectly.

By providing financial support to ensure the Lisbon treaty goes through in its current format, Ryanair and other corporations like Microsoft and Intel place decision making further from the democratic process.
With the money involved they also ensure that their lobbyists have access to or even places with the unelected decision making committees.

To make sure that government remains of, by and for the People, we need a treaty that enshrines democracy answerable to us - not special interest groups and their lobbyists-whether their influence is sought or unsought - it is a danger Eisenhower warned against.

The adage of Tacitus still holds true - that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Again, as always – thanks for reading.

Even if you don’t agree with me – I hope you give some thoughts to the points made

And please let others now about these blogs.
Citizen Simon - out

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