An alternative vision of human social economy

ONE of my favourite topics of conversation when I meet foreign workers in factories and hotels is what would they do when they go back to their respective countries, when their formal contract of employment ends.

To my surprise, I always get a similar response where, they would not need to work in a formal sector in their respective country, since their village has all the necessary resources to survive.

They have personal farms for growing food, chickens, cows and goats which are used for personal or community consumption or it is sold to the cities through a supply chain.

There is an alternative fall back into their rural eco-system when there is a rupture or end to the employment in the formal economy.

What is interesting is there is an alternative informal rural economy that is built on ethos of village living that provides social security in real sense where you take ownership of your social interaction and economic activity, unlike the formal economic system where the capitalist utilitarianism tends to determine the organisation of society.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how a formal economy in the urban setting could be devastated, causing millions to become unemployed, businesses going bankrupt and, far worse, people dying from the virus.

The crisis has shown an imbalanced world that was obsessed with economic prosperity and growth, forgetting community solidarity, informal economic activities and integral ecology.

In fact, these three elements should be the vision of the future built on the principle of subsidiarity, where local solutions to local issues are sought.

Are we fostering a sense of community living in our villages and urban housing areas? Are we working on abandoned land in our surrounding areas for community farming, where we could fall on if there is a rupture in the formal economy, such as food inflation?

Are our decisions on day to day of community living strongly rooted in a consciousness of being part of whole natural environmental systems that need to be nurtured and protected?

Do we need disastrous pandemic for us to realise the importance of an informal economy that enhances the skills and knowledge of people in our community?

The informal economy supports some of most vulnerable people in society. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, it generates 90% of employment opportunities in some countries.

Let’s build up an alternative vision of community solidarity, informal economy and integral ecology. – May 16, 2022.

* Ronald Benjamin is secretary for the Association for Welfare Community and Dialogue.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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