Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou praised the Taiwanese-owned textile companies that operate in Swaziland during his visit to the kingdom, but failed to point out the exploitation that takes place in the factories.
He told some of the 6,000 workers that Tex Ray employs in its Swaziland factories that its owners really appreciated the effort made by the hardworking women. He encouraged them to work harder for a better life, according to media in Swaziland.
But, what he did not say was that all the profits the women help to make can go straight out of Swaziland back to Taiwan.
Media in Taiwan are describing Tex Ray as ‘a model of successful overseas investment’, and that was why President Ma Ying-jeou visited it during his trip to Swaziland, just ending.
Tex Ray Chairman Ray Lin was reported saying, ‘Whatever is taken from society will be used for society’ was the principle upon which Tex Ray runs its business.
In August 2010, Lutfo Dlamini, who was then Swazi Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, told Taiwan journalists all profits made in the textile factories for Taiwan-owned companies could be taken out of the kingdom. He said that this made Swaziland a better place to set up factories than anywhere else in Africa.
And, the then Taiwanese ambassador to Swaziland Peter Tsai told reporters a distinguishing feature of Swaziland in terms of investment ‘is that it allows full repatriation of profits and dividends of enterprises operating in the country’.
Dlamini said in Swaziland, ‘We believe in this country. You invest your money. You make profits and you are able to take the profits away.’
There are about 25 Taiwanese-owned factories operating in Swaziland, mostly textile and garment manufacturers, employing about 15,000 people, many at close to slave wages. There have been numerous strikes by workers trying to get decent wages, but the pay is so poor that many women workers are paid wages so low they are unable to feed themselves properly and have to resort to prostitution.
But wages in Swaziland were still too high, according to Mason Ma, director and vice president of Tex Ray. He told reporters in 2010 that recent increases had pushed ‘wage levels higher than in some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia’.
Last month, the Swaziland High Court supported textile company Zheng Yong when it refused to pay its workers paid leave, when it claimed it could not afford to do so.
MINISTER RAIDS TEXTILE FACTORY
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