What social, political, and economic significance this enormous population universe has and what kind of support it requires.
The socio-economic space called “popular economy” is huge and diverse. In some countries, it covers almost its entire population, in others it can represent about half of the population or a third of it. Only in very few countries can that proportion be further reduced. I wish it were different, but it is not, with the aggravating factor that the “figures” (human beings who suffer and seek to survive) change over time. In times like the present day where the unbridled concentration of wealth (and the consequent decision-making power) prevails, popular economy grows as a fragile refuge at a similar rate.
Popular economy encompasses communities of people who survive in always harsh circumstances, working rudimentarily to achieve meager incomes almost without support that would allow them to head into other trajectories. There are exceptions where valuable organizations give battles, always uphill, to achieve rights that are whisked away from them.
Popular economy is not a space that exists independently of what originates it. That is, it arises from the actions of powerful minority groups that impose on the majority economic-political-media-judicial-cultural-valuation systems that impact all dimensions of the life of human beings, including education and health, security, food, housing protection, science and technology, tremendous environmental destruction. All this works interlinked, although it may not be reflected as watertight, rigid, or immovable structures.
Significance of popular economy
The starting point goes through an ethical and political reason of justice, reparation, and mobilization of multiple popular sectors living in subsistence conditions. Dominators treat them as outcasts without rights. It is an unacceptable situation that demands an immediate solution.
Another critical reason is that in the popular economy nests a productive capacity of enormous dimension that if properly supported could become a strategic asset of sustainable development. This capacity has been sterilized, dammed, cornered. If it were to be active on the basis of effectiveness, equity, and justice, the productive apparatus would be beneficially enlarged by incorporating units with strong social roots. These roots make possible the emergence of actors who, advancing in clarification, orient their productive effort to the dual purpose of obtaining income and deriving the possible multiplier effects of their activity in favor of their community, in a context of respect for the environmental surroundings.
The development of popular economy can bring a halo of hope to society as a whole; it will depend on how it materializes. One possible trajectory is to integrate popular economy into the predominant concentrating process; that is, that each venture advances on its own and weakness to connect with what already exists. Another option is to articulate the ventures in trade and productive associations with greater bargaining power with the rest of the economic system and with those who decide public policies. A perspective that seeks to combine the productive and a good commercial insertion with solidarity help to its community and the promotion of public policies that respect popular rights and needs.
Support for popular economy
The complexity and depth of the circumstances in which popular economy is immersed makes it imperative to have support that addresses the set of aspects that block its development. A support that allows new and existing grassroots enterprises to identify and access promising opportunities with criteria broader than their own interests. That is, aware that productive decisions impact both the social and environmental surroundings, choose those that combine the search for economic effectiveness with the exercise of social and environmental responsibility.
The starting point is complex since popular economy does not have the factors that are necessary to enhance its ventures. These factors are available to enterprises in the formal economic system; likewise, they should be provided to the popular economy. It is worth explaining that no successful company uses only one of these factors but almost all, although in different proportions and modalities. Hence, only partial and dubious quality support for the ventures of the popular economy is not enough. This is not how the productive economy works, it requires technical and managerial support of excellence, financial availability and conditions that allow to preserve the community imprint.
Otherwise, if, for example, they get technical assistance without financial support, the likely outcome would be to remain concentrated on subsistence or low-profitability activities. Nor would it be useful to access meagre financing without developing the capacity to identify and access promising opportunities; otherwise, they would continue to operate in the options that are familiar to them. Moreover, if they only received productive and financial support without the guidance of their organizations to grow in clarification and achieve an integrated action to their community, the risk of social differentiation between participants of successful ventures and the rest of their social environment would increase.
It is critical to ensure a fair and non-subordinate insertion in the other levels of the economic system. This implies being able to negotiate a fair integration into value chains so as not to be squeezed via prices or commercial conditions by leading companies. If they lacked the power to achieve this, shouldn’t the state mediate?
It is these and other circumstances that underpin the kind of support that popular economy requires. Conventional assistance leads to meager economic results and undesirable consequences, frenzied “collateral damages”, with social fractures, rivalries, and antagonisms. Support for popular economy should aim at an inclusive and solidary construction that reinforces community unity.
Inhabitants of popular economy have suffered a lot to embark on trajectories of contradictory results. It is not that there is a lack of talent or determination, what happens is that population is subjected to a permanent bombardments of values that cover up the interests of the dominant actors. A common sense is imposed on them that operates like the sinister siren-songs pointed out in Homer’s Odyssey: they do not allow us to warn of the danger of being carried away to failure by false and unfounded promises.
Comprehensive Support Strategies and Instruments
While it is a high priority to offer comprehensive support to the popular economy, there is no unique modality to implement that support. The strategy to be used needs to adapt to the singularities of each time and situation. This is because societies are diverse in terms of conformation, cultural traditions, political experience, nature of their leadership. It is only possible to point out eventual common denominators as in the case of demanding excellence in everything that is provided, both in terms of economic intelligence, financial modalities, and clarification efforts.
An important challenge is to overcome the narrow spaces of possibilities inculcated as the only thing accessible to the popular economy. It is not only possible but imperative to identify and take advantage of more promising opportunities than those prevailing in the popular economy. To do this, it will be necessary to overcome everything that seeks to undermine the hope of possible change, an anti-popular trap that is essential to unmask.
There really is a diversity of proposals to evaluate. Each organization of the popular economy will know what will serve them, eventually adapt what needs to be adjusted, and discard what does not correspond to its own reality.
Opinion Sur has also sought to provide modalities of support to the popular economy in which two powerful instruments stand out: developers of ventures of the popular economy and trusts specialized in financing them. A brief summary of these proposals can be seen in the article Popular Economy, Concrete Actions of Magnitude.
Induced nebulae and political decision
Supporting popular economy requires a firm political decision. A decision to act with the effectiveness and scale that the challenge demands. No residual program cut off from the big macro and meso economic decisions works. Such is the impact that measures to support the popular economy can generate that they ought to be an essential part of major national development decisions. So many people cannot be relegated to a social assistance approach, even if emergency measures that cannot be postponed often have to be adopted.
Those who dominate the countries usually adduce all kinds of arguments for not supporting popular economy with the suggested level of excellence. One of the most widely used is that there are not enough resources, which is a fallacy. There are huge surpluses produced within countries only that they are appropriated by large corporations that do not register them in their entirety, evade their tax responsibility from the part they hide, and sterilize the ill-gotten by flighting it abroad. As these and other crimes cannot be openly defended, they induce all sorts of nebulae to mask their misdeeds.
If the resources exist, it is time to elucidate whether this enormous drain will continue to punish popular majorities or if, on the contrary, it is appropriate to dismantle the appropriation mechanisms to reassign those resources in response to the critical support needed for the popular economy.
It is also argued that the fundamental thing is that the economy grows without making explicit that large oligopolistic conglomerates will most likely benefit from it and not the whole society. Dominators maintain that this occurs in the first instance, but then benefits are “spilled” to all social strata, something that does not happen. Hence, it is imperative to support ventures of the popular economy so that equity is generated from their production and not by redistribution of income that the powerful register as their own.
Another argument that is part of the induced nebulae is the need for certainty to decide to invest. No one would propose to promote uncertainty, but it is necessary to ask whether the certainty adduced by the powerful implies reproducing indefinitely the process of concentration of wealth. On the other hand, even when there are firm policies and rules of operation, unlimited greed maintains cycle after cycle the practices of appropriation, tax evasion, and capital flight.
The nebulae are built with the political purpose of hiding the significance of popular economy and denying it a comprehensive support of magnitude. This ensures that the status quo that favors the dominators is preserved. There are no coincidences but causality in the established order.
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