The news that Bolivia has nationalised a Spanish owned electricity company follows a similar action taken recently by Argentina.
Speaking at a May Day ceremony, Bolivian President Morales said that "in honour of all Bolivian people who have struggled to recuperate our natural resources and basic services, we are nationalising Transportadora de Electricidad (TDE)".
He explained that he was nationalising the company because it had failed to invest sufficiently in Bolivia. TDE was taken over by the Spanish power company REE in 2002. The company claims that it owns and runs 73% of the power lines in Bolivia, which provides 85% of Bolivians with their electricity.
South America has seen most of their natural resources and utilities controlled by foreign investors. Local politicians are claiming that many of these, often multi-national companies, are extracting all of their profits out of their countries, rather than re-investing. Whilst one can see how such countries might have initially welcomed the investment, the export of capital and the loss of any national control of their vital assets and industries has begun to make such a situation less attractive.
WESTERN EUROPE IS NOT IMMUNE
European countries are not immune to this process. Multi-nationals are global actors and will invest anywhere. Many non-British companies control British assets. A City law firm Wedlake Bell reported two years ago that over half of all mergers and acquisitions were backed by overseas bidders. Perhaps foreign investment is welcome, if it is not used to asset strip or as a cash-cow for the parent overseas company?
In Western Europe the main concern has been the off-shoring of jobs to economies where wages/running costs are cheaper. A global company can therefore ensure that investment (and profits) goes overseas whilst artificially suppressing the development of the business here.
Solidarity Trade Union is not suggesting that nationalisation is a panacea for our ills. We would much rather industry was controlled by employee shareholders and cooperatives. If multi-nationals decide to take their profits from the UK and re-invest in cheaper labour economies there will, sooner or later, be (rightly) a backlash here too!