Popular economy needs much more than handouts to integrate fully to national development. It is necessary to consider it when defining macroeconomic and productive development measures and thus not just as an isolated, unconnected program from big decisions of economic policy. An effective support system can transform popular economy into a strategic pillar in achieving a fair and sustainable development in Latin America and Africa.
The large and heterogeneous space of popular economy tends to be ignored or, in the best scenario, is target as electoral booty through assistance programs that do not remove the circumstances in which their participants barely survive.
A documentary showed how each time it rains a precarious settlement flooded. It was almost impossible to circulate during those days. Together with a charity organization, neighbors built a rudimentary path by aligning stones and other debris to allow them to move around in rainy days. How can we not celebrate such neighborly effort! However, and without resting any merit to those initiatives, transforming solutions imply adopting public policies that solve from the root the vulnerabilities and harsh restrictions in which popular economy works. That is, generating jobs and decent incomes for all, housing, health, education and basic services that allow for achieving a good living, in similar conditions as for the rest of the population.
How can the needed support be obtained to really address the problems not through patches but rather real solutions? The challenge is in essence political, what implies political parties and movements. However, its sustainability rests in social organizations from the popular economy, which apart from helping sheer grit their population; they unfold a permanent clarification effort.
And the rest of society? We need to dialogue one and a thousand times to generate support and establish coalitions.
Someone said, seriously or as a joke, that if middle sectors and, even more, the richest were invited to stay for a couple of months in those precarious settlements, they would change completely their perspective. It is not the same to watch it on TV or visit a precarious settlement knowing that by that night they will be back to their homes. It is hard to shake consciences however it is imperative to do so; transforming popular economy requires social and political backup.
What to target
It is possible and legitimate to offer excellence support to popular economy. Thus, it has to be included as one of the critical backbones of a fair and sustainable development; it has to be considered when defining fiscal policy and public expenditure, territorial development; orientations of credit, investments, science and technology. It is also creating the conditions so that popular economy can participate, at some level, in export promotion and import substitution.
There is no doubt that with excellence support popular economy will grow in size and productive quality. When doing it, apart from assisting its population, it could actively contribute to their municipality and country. The challenge starts by breaking stereotypes and perspectives embedded in stinginess and preconceptions. Opened the space of the possible, it is necessary to address the phase of innovation to mobilize talents and energies that had been permanently devalued.
A comprehensive support system for the popular economy
In emergencies, it is necessary to rely upon what already exists but incorporating innovations step by step. The greatest innovation, one that enables access to most promising opportunities in trading, technology, employment, income and management, is increasing the scale of operation and negotiation with first level assistance. One way of achieving that is by establishing or strengthening middle-size and associative ventures within popular economy.
It is not about neglecting existing family ventures or those that might be created. A support system must provide credit and technical and commercial orientation to family effort that will continue being the most numerous component of popular economy. At the same time, support system can back up the generation of productive hubs within popular economy based on middle-size ventures capable of inserting themselves into promissory value chains. Thus, they will have the capacity for subcontracting family ventures and retain in popular economy a diversity of multiplying effects.
In previous texts, we presented two potent instruments to help establishing medium-size ventures: developers and trusts specialized in popular economy. These instruments are strategic catalyzers of the enormous work done by social organizations and some public sector agencies. They would act as an organizing arm for solid productive structures that could allow popular economy exit from residual spaces in which it has been cornered up.
Establishing popular-base productive units is complex in a universe where all kinds of scarcities prevail. It would be necessary to transit through a tough passage towards new types of ventures to integrate them into competitive markets in good terms. Critical is to preserve an organizing criterion for the economic besides maximizing profit, rather generating surpluses to strengthen and better contribute to the good living of communities they belong. It is difficult for these units to appear spontaneously in contexts where solidarity and common good are crushed by greed, selfishness, a destructive culture imposed onto contemporary societies.
Thus, developers of medium ventures of the popular economy must be formed by teams that combine experience in leading this type of units with the mandate of choosing operating and investment decisions that do not hurt but rather serve communities. No tolerance for negative collateral impacts or externalities, a hypocrisy that shelters harmful decisions of the current institutionalized greed.
An example of possible new opportunities for popular economy
It is worth noting that valuable initiatives already exist in support of popular economy that could be strengthened or extended territorially. However, much still remains to be done, carefully differentiating situations to respect the singularities of diverse circumstances. Therefore, what follows is far from being a recipe compendium but rather it is an attempt at showing spaces that just opened and that, due to ignorance or prejudices, were forbidden for the popular economy.
It is understandable that sectors cornered up in poverty and all kinds of scarcities cannot seize, and sometimes not even conceive, opportunities to work in more promising spaces. It is not about ignorance or lack of talent but, due to the conditions in which they were doomed to operate, it is difficult to identify allegedly unreachable opportunities and, much less, ways of leveraging them. They need support to tackle such challenge, a backup that can be offered by specialized developers and trusts with the leadership of popular economy organizations and public (both national and municipal) agencies associated to such end.
Let us review possible opportunities for popular economy.
- Inclusion in exporting or import-substituting value chains
Developers with financial support of trusts can address this task. It will be hard to accomplish but not impossible based on finished goods and, maybe, more likely by articulating themselves as suppliers of productive chains that contribute to reducing bottlenecks of the external sector (facilitating the availability of foreign currency). It would be necessary to explore together with export promoting agencies ways of articulating medium-size ventures from the popular economy with exporters or those who work on substituting imports.
- Integrated programs of family agriculture
It is an initiative to strengthen family farms in close belts to metropolitan areas, intermediate and small cities, including associative stockpile and transportation, articulated with neighbor greengrocer’s, community supermarkets and fairs. Developers and trusts can design, develop, and accompany these initiatives until their economic and organizational consolidation.
- Ongoing development of precarious settlements
Developers can help in the formation of urban planning Units with community own cadres assisted by experts. Those who know about the dynamic of each settlement would try to direct it towards the good living of their community. They would contribute with the settlement’s management, harmonize the land use, vehicle and pedestrian circulation, provision of sanitary, health, educational and communication infrastructure by responsible authorities.
- Software ventures
Popular economy organizations and their developers can call on existent software enterprises to assist in the conformation of ventures with adults and youths eager to train in them. An activity that would allow for closing the technological gap that prevails in wide segments of popular economy
- Basic clinical laboratories
In all popular economy settlements, laboratories are needed to address local demand for blood and urine analyses. They would have basic infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment. Developers can help establishing agreements with existent labs to receive technical assistance in exchange for receiving the referrals for more complex analyses.
- Centers for CT and MRI
Similar approach as presented above with clinical labs
- Cooperatives for pickup and delivery of products
With sanitary pandemic, delivery modalities of different products have multiplied. Nothing impedes forming their own home delivery systems under the associative form of choice. They would meet local requests and those from other neighborhoods. Developers and trusts can assist in their formation.
- Caring centers for the elders and children
A promissory economic space is caring for the elderly, children, and everybody who needs different types of support. With training of excellence and expert support, centers providers of these types of critical services can be created. They would meet local demand and project themselves to their area of influence.
- Popular franchises in multiple sectors
Popular or community franchises are an associative modality that can be used to supply different services, such as franchises of laundry services, security, cleaning, masonry and electricity, and many others. The offer of these services can be target to the internal demand of the popular economy as well as that of surrounding neighborhoods.
- Agencies for wiring money and paying bills
Agreements can be settled with solidarity financial entities for establishing small local agencies for paying bills and wiring money.
This list can be extended to much more opportunities. The purpose is to encourage jumping over ideological fences that sterilize popular talent and initiative. With a critical warning. As the objective is not to maintain popular economy cornered up in all kinds of scarcities, establishing activities of excellence will require strengthening cooperation relations with universities and agencies for industrial and agriculture technology. That is, advancing with the support of the entire scientific and technological system of the country. A valuable and strategic asset that can and should support sectors of popular economy.
In countries where this interweaving already exists (not by chance when coalitions with wide popular base rule), it will be necessary only to strengthen and extend it, but there are others that have neglected their scientific and technological systems. No lack of arguments exists: from the shortage of resources to the smear due to the true or apparent divorce from the needs of the people. However, giving financing grudgingly also is implied in confusing as expense what is strategic investment for exercising decisional sovereignty.
We end these lines, making explicit the political transcendence of this crucial paring: popular economy needs a scientific and technological system to support its transformation and science and technology allied with their people will find there the necessary social support for strengthening themselves at the level their country needs.
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