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Michel Gendrot
Ingénieur civil du Génie Maritime
Opinion expressed in July 2000 to fifty french personalities of the Government and of the  political, financial, industrial, trade-union, press and television world

Translation Patrick Hirschler-Marchand, 27 Aug. 2000

The New Colonialism

It is fashionable today to rake the colonialism of fifty-years ago over the coals. But doing so ignores the undeniable advantages it brought to local populations. The colonial power, be it French, English, Belgian, Dutch, etc…, aimed at promoting the colonies. It invested considerably in the infrastructure of those countries: in the towns, the railroads, the highways, the ports, the electric power plants, the administrative, educational and cultural facilities, etc. The local colonists were not slave drivers but entrepreneurs who created jobs, paid income tax and, de facto, supported the prosperity of the country. To be sure, modest salaries came with those jobs, but they would certainly have been even less with local employers. On the whole, that situation was rather stable because the colonial power brought a lot of investments.

The colonial powers also prospected and mined in these countries, both of which these countries still profit from today. Above all, the colonial power brought peace. The exception to this is the two world wars in which our colonies were implicated along with us and our allies (for what reason would would they have been sheltered from them ? )

Now that colonial powers have left, what do we find? In many places, local kings have seized power, grabbed the wealth and fight to preserve them. Domestic peace is not guaranteed except in a few countries. For these countries, independence has only been for self-gratification whereas from the economic standpoint, it has been purely and simply a catastrophy. In this somber landscape, there are, fortunately, a few wise and enlightened chiefs of state who have found the right path, but one must admit that these are rare exceptions.

Having turned this page, can one say colonialism has disappeared ? Not at all! It has taken a different and much worse form. Now, it is truly a one-way street. The new colonizers are the multinational corporations which exploit the Third World under the cover of the convenient alibi of the sacred principles of globalization. These corporations set up foreign subsidiaries in order to reap profit from low salaries. The so-called technology transfers are intentionally reduced to a minimum and are carefully monitored and compartmentalized. The sale prices back to the parent corporation are calculated to minimize payment of local income tax; thanks to the suppression of custom duties, the multinationals reap the benefits, not the host countries. For the multinationals, globalization is a gold mine.

The former colonial powers are asked to support this unfair competition. Complete segments of their economy disappear, and millions of workers end up on the street. The financiers of these countries are satisfied because money flows in, but the live forces of the country disappear. While certain countries deplore a limited loss of sovereignty due to European unification, how can they not realize that the leaders of the European countries have lost any control on the world scene – which is infinitely more serious and worth worrying about. It is quite a diabolical mechanism that has been set-up by a few and whose score is supremely executed with the unconcious participation of the masses and the media. We need to remember that these are the same parties which, fifty years ago, raised a hue and cry against colonizers. This is just the continuation of the same implacable logic: just get out of my way!..

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