Altar servers immerse themselves in prayer
June 22, 2021
In the spirit of incognito
June 22, 2021

Building an inclusive future

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

Today, Sunday, the world observes Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day, which aims to raise public awareness of their contribution to sustainable development, poverty alleviation and the global economy.

As the United Nations says: “Small businesses, including those run by women and young entrepreneurs, are being hit hardest by the economic fall-out of the pandemic. Unprecedented lockdown measures enacted to contain the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in supply chain disruptions and a massive drop in demand in most sectors.

“To continue playing their crucial role in creating decent jobs and improving livelihoods, small businesses depend more than ever on an enabling business environment, including support for access to finance, information, and markets. Let’s not forget that these enterprises, which generally employ fewer than 250 persons, are the backbone of most economies worldwide and play a key role in developing countries.

“According to the data provided by the International Council for Small Business, formal and informal MSMEs make up over 90 per cent of all firms and account, on average, for 70 per cent of total employment and 50 per cent of GDP.

“MSMEs tend to employ a larger share of the vulnerable sectors of the workforce, such as women, youth, and people from poorer households – populations with high vulnerability in times of Covid-19. MSMEs can sometimes be the only source of employment in rural areas. As such, MSMEs as a group are the main income provider for income distribution at the ‘base of the pyramid’”.

In November 2020, a high-level virtual seminar was organised by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (CAL) and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS), of the Vatican, along with the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

A press release by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) stated that in his message to the meeting, Pope Francis indicated that “the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified and made more evident the problems and socioeconomic injustices that already seriously affected all of Latin America, with greater severity for those who are poorest.

“‘Not everyone has the resources needed to take basic protective measures against the pandemic. This should alarm us: does everyone have safe housing? Access to water? Do they have the resources to sanitise the rooms? Stable work? The pandemic made our pre-existing vulnerabilities even more visible,’ he sustained.

“Pope Francis added that the pandemic has had devastating effects that we will continue to experience for a long time, above all in our economies, which require solidarity-based assistance and creative proposals to ease the burden of the crisis. ‘In the kingdom of God, there is bread for everyone and more to spare. And social organisation is based on contributing, sharing, and distributing. Not on owning, excluding, and accumulating. We are all called upon to carry out our work and mission with responsibility, with transparency and honesty,’ he stated.”

Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, ECLAC, said that “in the developing world, the region of Latin America and the Caribbean has been hit the hardest by the pandemic, and that it is also facing its worst economic crisis in 100 years, with huge health, economic, environmental, social and political effects and consequences…

“Covid-19 has shown and magnified the structural problems of the development model in Latin America and the Caribbean: intersecting inequalities, mediocre growth, low productivity, insufficient export diversification, scant fiscal space and increasing environmental deterioration…

“That is why we applaud… Fratelli Tutti encyclical, which is so profound and necessary, and which together with the Laudato Si’ encyclical encourage serene reflection to find shared wisdom and to collectively safeguard global public goods such as peace, financial stability, climate security, biodiversity and caring for the earth, and universal health…We want another future in which equality is a key factor for growth.”

ECLAC has shared seven concrete proposals for connecting the emergency to the recovery, including: “Lengthening maturities and grace periods on loans to Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and protecting the employment of workers.”

ECLAC rightly warned that “regional and international solidarity will be critical for building back better, and that new forms of global governance are needed to collectively provide global public goods, such as universal health care (a coronavirus vaccine for all), climate security and the protection of the atmosphere, financial stability, and peace and human rights.”

Read the set of policy proposals contained in ECLAC’s  document Building a New Future: Transformative Recovery with Equality and Sustainability addressed to the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by a love which calls us together into universal communion. (76)

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee