Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Coca-Cola Plant Opens In Afghan Capital Amid Raging Violence

Sunday's opening of a new $25 million Coca-Cola production plant did not go smoothly. A sniper on the gleaming Coca-Cola factory's roof peered through his gun searching for any hint of a terrorist threat, while an American dog handler barked commands at a journalists being frisked by Afghan security agents in the parking lot. But according to the pro- U.S. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, more business openings and investments of this kind will lead to a downturn in Afghanistan's violence. Karzai claimed that this new Coca-Cola plant was another step forward for economic growth, self-sufficiency and better living standards for Afghanistan. The Afghan president said he hoped the new Coke plant would serve as a catalyst for further private investment to boost his country's ailing economy, which is heavily reliant on foreign aid. The Coca-Cola plant offered 350 new jobs for Afghanistan citizens.

However, many Afghans are not prone to the new plant. Jomaa Gul, a 34-year-old who lives in the ruins of what was once the administration block of Coca Cola's last production plant, sees things in a different way. Gul's father worked at the 40-year-old plant before it was ravaged by artillery fire, which killed more than 50,000 people and installed the Taliban. Jomaa and his family were forced to move into a bombed-out building, along with four other families. Jomaa believes that Afghanistan needs new hospitals and an end to violence, not investment for soft drinks. Because of the new Coca-Cola plant, some citizens have no running water, no electricity and no sanitation. Jomaa thinks hospitals and security are more worthy investments for $25 million than a soft drink plant.

Whose side are you on? Is the risk of economic growth worth making a country experience more poverty or violence? Even though Coca-Cola thought long and hard about returning to Afghanistan, could the brand be seen as a symbolic American target for terrorists?

1 comment:

Shannon Glancy said...

If there were no economic stimulation and growth, then the hospitals and security forces would just be fighting an uphill battle. Now, I don’t know if Coca-Cola was the best pick for economic stimulation, because it is very identifiable with the western hemisphere. So, I agree that economic stimulation is just as important as security and hospitals, but I’m not sure Coca-Cola was the best way to bring it.