Saturday 2 November 2002

Is this really enterprise?

The Taiwanese company Chunghwa is the latest casualty in Scotland's "Silicon Glen". There is increasing concern about the long-standing policy of paying overseas companies to open factories over here. The sums of money are extraordinary:
Even with estimates of £80,000 of taxpayers’ money subsidising the employment of each of the 600 people employed by Chunghwa at its Mossend plant, it is by no means the most costly of the firms which were drawn to Scotland by the favourable deals on offer.
but few seem yet to oppose the principle of using taxpayers' cash to subsidise businesses:
The experience has taught the Scottish Executive a lesson it will not forget. With the Motorola closure came the realisation that the policy of throwing money at overseas companies was no longer a viable proposition and the economic aftershocks of 11 September only confirmed the wisdom of that decision. Annual inward investment to Scotland slumped from more than £1 billion to less than £300 million.

Until the Motorola closure, 60 per cent - about £70 million a year - of the RSA budget went to overseas companies. The Executive concluded that the ration had to be reversed, with money going into the development of indigenous companies which would not disappear overseas when the going got tough.

We don't need taxpayers' "money going into the development of indigenous companies" at the command of government. What local businesses - existing and potential - need is for politicians to get out of the way, or, as M. Legendre told Colbert: Laissez-nous faire.