Geopolitics

Why Latin America Should Go All In On The Sharing Economy

The collaborative approach to trade, production and services could help countries like Colombia end their dependence on raw materials.

Time to share
Time to share
Felipe Jánica

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ — While we tend to think of the so-called sharing economy as a new concept — a product of the fourth industrial revolution — its origins are far older, as old as the economy itself. What's happening now, rather, is that due to the rise of e-trading and disruptive models that are ending certain logistical chains, the concept is developing and permeating popular speech.

For Latin America, there are both benefits and challenges involved with these economic shifts. But they also offer a real possibility to redevelop our battered economies. In Colombia's case, like with most Latin American economies, dependence on the sale of primary goods has caused considerable instability. Dependence on a good, especially commodities or natural resources, destabilizes economic growth in the two other types of goods: secondary and tertiary.

With primary goods (raw materials or renewable and non-renewable resources), prices are usually free-floating and depend on international rates set in this case in U.S. dollars. The greater our dependence on these goods, the less chance we have of pursuing real economic development, of diversifying, in other words, into industrial production (secondary goods) and providing world-class services (tertiary goods).

Dependence on the sale of primary goods has caused considerable instability.

The dollar's current price volatility makes diversification even more urgent — so as to avoid its negative effects on an already shaken economy. This is why Latin American economies should do all they can to seek alternatives. In our case, as I've written before, the state needs structural reform. That reform must envisage changes in education, justice, security, infrastructure, and cargo and passenger mobility inside the country.

In Bogota, Colombia — Photo: Random Institute

Colombia also needs to root out corruption and do away with inefficient bureaucracy in both the private and public sectors. And on the financial side, we need to overhaul the system of taxation. If this overhaul were fully implemented, the country's risk ratings would improve substantially, and that, in turn, would help make the country more competitive.

What we need to drive this scale of economic transformation are more and better jobs. This could be done by promoting private and public initiatives that involve the sharing economy concept. Its essence is fairly simple and based on the integration of producers and consumers in a community. Both sides have a common objective, so creating a collaborative framework between them facilitates their connection and, ultimately, the exchange of products and services.

The task of institutions should be to pave the way for revolutionary ideas like these.

Creating collaborative eco-systems to aid the mechanization of farming, say, may help yield a high-tech, industrialized farming sector. This industrialization would allow us to move on from the production of primary goods, with benefits for both producers and consumers, locally and abroad.

Exploiting the fourth industrial revolution and using its enablers (digital elements, the internet of things) will be fundamental for creating collaborative eco-systems. The task of institutions should be to pave the way for revolutionary ideas like these.

That they're still focused, for the most part, on traditional businesses rather than the collaborative model isn't surprising. But that's all the more reason why deep structural reforms are now a matter of urgency.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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