IN OTHER WORDS : Cheap lives
Globalisation brings wealth and opportunity to many people around the world.
But to poor slum dwellers in the failing state of Ivory Coast, it has brought horrible sickness and death after hazardous waste, shipped nearly halfway around the world, was stealthily dumped in backyards around Abidjan.
A fuming mix of petrochemicals and caustic soda that started out in the Mediterranean and ended up in Africa could have been safely disposed of earlier. But Trafigura, the Swiss trading company that leased the tanker, balked at paying European prices.
Instead, 85,000 people ended up seeking medical treatment, and at least eight have died. For a company that had revenues of $28 billion last year, it was not a prohibitive price.
Trafigura says the Ivory Coast authorities told it that the local company could do the job safely. If that is true, those officials were recklessly incompetent.
A stronger system of international regulations might have forced Trafigura to think twice about whom it was hiring. Unless such regulations are tightened, the sick and the dead in Ivory Coast will have suffered for nothing. And the whole story will soon be repeated in some other country where costs are low, rules are slack, and, as an inevitable result, human life is cheap. — The New York Times