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THE SUNDAY TIMES (UK): UK firms praised over aid to tsunami victims: “Other donors include Wolseley, the plumbing group, Royal Dutch/Shell and Cable & Wireless, the telecommunications company.” ( 9 Jan 05


David Smith, Economics Editor

January 09, 2005  


BUSINESS can be “enormously proud” of its response to the tsunami disaster and is generating huge amounts of goodwill in the countries affected, according to Sir Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI.


Jones, speaking from Chennai in India which was hit by the giant wave, said the CBI had been overwhelmed by calls from businesses offering help. He was especially struck by the response of UK firms in India.


“The companies operating here, and I’m sure it has been the same in Thailand and elsewhere, are working closely with local communities,” he said.


He gave the example of HSBC, which is intending to buy hundreds of fishing boats to replace those destroyed by the tsunami, and P&O, which worked to get the port re-opened quickly.


Isoft, which has 1,000 “offshored” workers in Chennai, matched the day’s pay donated by its workers.


“I wanted to see for myself how business was coping and how it could help, and it’s good news,” said Jones. “Chennai is open for business and people here feel very proud of the fact that the Indian government has said it doesn’t want aid from other governments. They are proud that they are developing so fast that they can stand on their own two feet. They feel very much at the top of the developing world.


“They lost a few containers at the port, but they were back in business within 24 hours.


All power to P&O’s elbow, because P&O has made a huge success of Chennai. You can always judge an organisation by how it deals with a crisis and it dealt with that very well.”


Normally the CBI does not make donations, but this time it has given several thousand pounds to an appeal launched by the Confederation of Indian Industry. “The goodwill is enormous,” said Jones. “British companies have been quick off the blocks and I am proud of that.” UK firms would play their full part in the reconstruction of the infrastructure destroyed by the tsunami, he said.


“The real problem is 300 kilometres to 600 kilometres south of here. All the way along the coast you have literally thousands of people who eat what they fish.


“Nobody knows how many of these people there were and how many were lost. The Indian economy won’t be affected by the loss of these subsistence fishermen but it is a huge human tragedy.”


His comments came as businessmen and companies were boosting their contributions to the disaster.


BP has pledged £3m, while Vodafone and the FA Premier League are each giving £1m. Diageo, the drinks giant, has budgeted more than £500,000 for disaster relief.


Scottish Water has flown out thousands of bottles, while BT Group has provided expertise as well as cash. Other donors include Wolseley, the plumbing group, Royal Dutch/Shell and Cable & Wireless, the telecommunications company.


Tom Hunter, one of Britain’s best-known philanthropists, is to give £1m to the tsunami appeal. It will be spent on rebuilding ruined schools in south Asia and helping to provide an early-warning system against any future giant waves.


Hunter also said he wanted to be sure that aid to Africa and other Third World regions did not dry up while everyone focused on the tsunami.


He was skiing in the French resort of Méribel with his family when the earthquake struck on Boxing Day. He said this weekend: “We heard about it, but we did not realise its enormity until we saw the pictures on television.”


Ewan Hunter, chief executive of the Hunter Foundation but no relation to Tom Hunter, has been in talks with the Treasury on how best to spend the money.


He said: “We wanted to assess the position thoroughly and ensure that any funds we applied went to a long-term solution. It seemed to us the short-term funding needs had been largely addressed.”


Tom Hunter is among Britain’s 100 richest people, with a fortune of £500m.


He sold the Ayr-based Sports Division chain for £290m in 1998. Since then he has invested in property and in retail ventures with Green, helping him to buy BHS.


The son of a grocer from New Cumnock, a former mining village in Ayshire, Hunter graduated from Strathclyde University in business and marketing but had trouble finding a job. His father had started a sideline selling trainers and Hunter realised that was where the future lay.


He started selling sports shoes from the back of a van, then obtained franchises within stores before building the Sports Division retail chain.


Among the companies that have given most are:


Pfizer £5.3m


Standard Chartered £2.7m


Exxon £2.7m


Dow Chemical £2.7m


JP Morgan Chase £1.6m


Zurich Financial £1.4m


Johnson & Johnson £1.1m


Vodafone £1m


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