The London newspaper The Guardian had an excellent lead story on its front page on Monday 6th Nov, about how yet more Multi-National Corporations who operate in the UK and throughout the European Union are evading paying their fair share of Tax. This time it is the Multi-nationals that are in the highly lucrative business of growing and marketing the West’s favorite fruit Bananas. Companies such as Del Monte*, Chiquita** and Dole*** who supply bananas to all of the UKs major super market chains and between them control well over two thirds of the world’s Banana trade have jointly accumulated over 1.4 billion dollars in profit in the last five years, yet they have payed less than 200 million in tax between them, which is according to the Guardian just over 14% of profits, in taxes between them over that period. In some years the banana companies have paid an effective tax rate as low as 8%, even though the standard rate in the US where they have their headquarters and file their full accounts is 35%.
Even worse than depriving the Exchequers of the Western nations in which the overwhelming majority of their customers reside, despite these multi-nationals being only to willing to take advantage of the services these nations ordinary tax payers cash provides.[transport infrastructure, security etc] The banana conglomerates pay little or no tax in the countries in which the bananas are grown; and as bananas have become at the instigation of these multi-nationals the only cash product that are produced in many of these countries. This lack of tax revenue makes it almost impossible for these nations to provide decent health care, education and infrastructure for their people, as all must come out of the government tax raised revenue pot.
If this alone was not bad enough not satisfied with skimming the tax man all be it in a perfectly sub legal way, these corporate shysters act as if they are competing to win the award as the most ‘unacceptable face of Capitalism,’ by driving down their labour cost to a pittance. Their plantation workers, almost all in the western hemisphere, on average work 12 hours a day and for this they are paid approximately £6. 60 per day, which amounts to labour cost of around 2%, think about that 2%.
This sorry tale gets worse, take Del Monte who provide bananas to UK super market giants Asda and Morrisons, the main business is registered in the Cayman islands, but just to muddy the tax inspectors water there are also over thirty Del Monte subsidiaries registered across the usual tax bolt holes so beloved by drug dealers, crooked politicians, and Mafia Dons, the Dutch Antilles, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar. The other two major producers and suppliers of Bananas, Chiquita and Dole do like wise, although they also use tax havens like Liberia and Puerto Rico. So when the man from Del Monte does his banking he is liable to have a member of the Cali Cocaine Cartel in front of him in the queue and behind him either Don Vito Corleone of ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier’s son.
Some might conclude so what, this does not effect them, what do they care when they can buy cheap bananas at their local Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury, but hold fast my contented friend. When business refuses to pay its fair share of taxation someone else has to make up the short fall, or our schools hospitals and infrastructure will decay and in reality this means the consumer via increased indirect taxation and the ordinary PAYE tax payer.
So I ask this, is it not time we told the shysters and men without honor who run these Multi- Nationals that we have had enough and stop buying their products when they act in such an unacceptable way. After all to boycott bananas will not kill us, but if done in an organized way it may make these multi national wake up to there responsibilities or force our own governments to act against them. For it is time big business understood that they have an equal responsibility to their workers, shareholders and the communities and nations they operate in. Enough of this chicken shit chicanery from the Multi-National Corporations. ****
* * * *http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2205944,00.html