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The hydroelectric power project plans on the Kunene river on the border between Namibia and Angola is dragging out. Since the Norconsult consortium presented its Norad-financed project study before Christmas last year, the two countries have tried to reach agreement on the location. Namibian authorities have chosen the Epupa falls, while Angolan authorities prefer the Baynes alternative, which presupposes restoration of the Gove dam in the country. A development of the Baynes alternative will make it easier to finance such a restoration.
Norske Skog's investment in the newsprint factory in Sing Buri in Thailand is frequently referred to as a financial success in the Norwegian press. But the financial crisis which enabled Norske Skog to make profit in Asia, has made it more difficult for the workers to survive on the minimum salary. Apart from a single wage increase, they have not benefited from Norske Skog's financial success. Instead of discussing the wage level with the employees, the Norwegian management suggests that it may reduce the workforce.
In the last years, the sales from Mustad's fishing gear factory in the Philippines have gone down. The management has used this as an argument for mass dismissals. At the same time, the company makes extensive use of subcontractors, who pay the workers far less than the legal minimum wage. The owner of two of the subcontracting firms is the wife of the man who for many years was managing director of Mustad. She stopped production at one of the factories when the workers organised themselves in a trade union. The Mustad workers fear further dismissals, and they have written a letter about the problems to the management in Norway, which has not been replied to.
The management of Mustad's fishing gear factory in the Philippines has deducted social security fees from the workers' wages and put the money into their own pockets, according to the trade union. Because of this, the social security system in the country has refused to pay the workers sickness benefit, maternity leave and other social benefits. The Mustad management in Norway admits that their payments are late, and they blame this on liquidity problems.

Mustad admits that they have buried chemicals without proper treatment at their plant in the Philippines for years. The company has now started the process of solving the waste problem.

- Dependency on protecting the environment is part of the nature of this business, says the Mustad manager in Norway.

The Norwegian minister of trade and industry, Lars Sponheim, was recently challenged to go to the municipality Kashipur in Rayagada district, Orissa, India. The background is that the Ministry of trade and industry is the major shareholder in Norsk Hydro. The Future in Our Hands and the Stromme Foundation have challenged the minister. The organisations hope that a visit by him will increase the understanding of what the conflict on Utkal Alumina's project is about.
Frionor Thailand has received support from NORAD several times; most recently in 1996, when the company was granted a loan of USD 2 million. The money was used to build a new factory, following the Thai authorities' demand that the old, run-down factory in Bangkok be abandoned. One of the NORAD justifications for the loan, was that the factory provided employment for women. The loan is to be paid off in 10 years, at a 1.5 per cent interest rate.
Of the roughly 300 employees at Frionor Thailand, about half receive the country's minimum wage of 162 baht (less than USD 5) per day. Since September 1997, they have had no raise in their wages, whereas the same period has seen inflation of about 15% due to the Asian financial crisis. There is no trade union for the employees.
90% of the longlines used for the Lofoten fisheries in Northern Norway, are produced by A.J. Fishing Industries Ltd in the Katunayake export processing zone. At this factory, NorWatch is politely, but firmly, denied taking any pictures, and is also prevented from looking more closely into the working conditions at the factory. Managing director, Terje Sandvik, says the company pays high wages, and in other respects comply with the regulations as laid down by the Board of Investment. Trade unions are prohibited at this Norwegian fishing equipment supplier. Sandvik insists that BOI is responsible for the ban on trade unions, and not the company he is running.
The prawn farms, already the source of great destruction to the mangrove forests in Thailand, are now spreading towards the interior of the country. By pouring salt water into the rice fields to breed prawns there, fortune hunters may earn big money for a few years until the fields are left vacant, unsuitable both for prawn farming and rice growing. Prawn farming in the interior is prohibited by law, but the Frionor factory in Thailand, owned by the Norwegian financier Kjell Inge Røkke, buys large quantities of prawn with no regard to how they are raised. As a result of criticism in Sweden, Frionor has stopped selling the prawns to grocery shops, but they still sell them to Norwegian restaurants and to markets in other countries.
Trade unions are facing difficult conditions in Sri Lanka's export processing zones, their rights being undermined by the national Board of Investment (BOI). Out of four Norwegian companies NorWatch has visited, all of which are subject to the BOI's regulations, three practise a ban on trade unions. Two of the companies have received financial support from NORAD, whose guidelines have now been made stricter. The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions says that supporting companies NORAD should not support companies that refuse their workers to organise.
In 1987, the steel goods producer Einar Øgrey AS from Søgne, Norway, together with a local partner, started a new company in Sri Lanka. Alloy Fabricators International has had economical problems, and would not have survived without goodwill and support from NORAD and Einar Øgrey AS. The Norwegian interests have gone far in giving economic support to keep the company alive. Contrary to Norwegian practice, the company has a ban on trade unions.