COVID-19 Quarantine: How do we deal with Poverty and Resource Scarcity?
During the pandemic, poverty has increased all over the world. Every day there is more unemployment and the situation does not look favorable for the future, there are no more incomes and life becomes complicated. How to deal with poverty and scarcity of resources? What actions can be done to contribute during this context? Join us to delve into this topic with Héctor Mellado from the Innovapaís Foundation.
This full interview was originally published as a Podcast and is available across seven of the world’s leading podcasting platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, Google Podcasts, and more! Catch the podcast below!
The conversation interview of Melton Fellow Pablo Carrillo with Héctor Mellado, President, and Founder of the Innovapaís Foundation, exposes the social problems that have arisen during the pandemic and the possible solutions that these can provide.
The Innovapaís Foundation, founded by Héctor and his wife Lorena Alarcón, works around three lines: Social, environmental innovation, and entrepreneurship or productive promotion; developing their work in the Araucanía region and also some activities in some communes with municipalities, other social organizations, neighborhood councils or Mapuche communities. What they are specifically looking for is through ideas or projects of organizations, supporting from the concept of innovation and at the same time producing the greatest impact with their activities, articulating and promoting territorial development.
“We are looking for a concept that is the Improbable Tax, to see the possibility that organizations of people from civil society may have contact or articulate, which implies restructuring this social fabric with different actors in institutional spaces, such as the foundations, which we are intermediate institutions and local services such as municipalities, other types of foundations, public service and also universities. The point is to work most collaboratively and jointly to establish these ties and at the same time promote the development of the territory.”
First, you have to think that the processes are historical, the poverty that exists in Chile does not come out like mushrooms in the forest. There is a process that drives poverty, vulnerability, and low working conditions. Situations that are not in line with our global position in the OECD and are the product of consequences that have occurred during the last 30 years in the process of Chile returned to democracy. This means that the context of the pandemic has come to deepen or reveal these hidden elements. The income categorization of people is quite precarious, it does not manifest the reality of people, nor does it cross all the components of multidimensional poverty. The reality that was evident before the pandemic with the social outbreak on October 18, manifests this situation of the functioning of the socioeconomic system, finally, the reality is that people live day by day according to informal jobs, and this is gone. Deepening and were revealed during the outbreak. Currently, within the context of a pandemic, people are asked to stay in their homes in a quarantine processor to be in a total quarantine depending on the situation. But the housing subsidy in Chile is 45 m2, so how about 45 m2 will 5 or 6 people be in quarantine? That is overcrowding anywhere in the world and any OECD category. On the other hand, income, patch solutions have been given, such as the family income subsidy, which is much lower, which corresponds in this case to the minimum wages for the income of people. So they are also situations that come to manifest or leave in greater evidence that the situation of poverty that Chile already had, we must be super sincere with that.
During the outbreak the common pots are already displayed, the camps are displayed, the rurality here in the region is displayed; and let’s think that an important percentage in Chile is rural, and that implies connectivity problems, health problems, water problems, apart from poverty in urban spaces. This has been made invisible and is mentioned in studies by international organizations, which states what were the problems of our system that allows access to credit, to a lot of technology, but on the other hand, it generates segregation or a very unequal distribution of income.
In international reports, it can be analyzed that Chile is presented as one of the most stable countries in Latin America, but that has to do with two elements: the legal element, which is that the laws do not change constantly, that we do not have sudden changes in laws As constitutional modifications or structural modifications through decree-laws, this is why Chile is a stable country; and concerning the economic elements, it happens in the same way, despite some ups and downs such as the crisis of the 80 ‘or some elements of the 2000’, but despite that, it has remained stable. The problem that the cost of this stability, for foreign investors and the international vision, is not consistent with the Chilean reality in the territory. Let’s think that 50% of workers across the country earn less than $ 400 thousand, 50% of people who have old-age pensions have pensions less than $ 150 thousand. There are 11.3 million people in debt, I mean we have a very high level of debt. So what we earn as a country, more than income, the distribution of income to achieve a more egalitarian and equitable society. That income is poorly distributed, so 1% of Chile concentrates 33% of the country’s production income, that is, the other 67% remains directly in possession of the other 99% of the country. So the profit income is not necessarily well distributed, and as Nicanor Parra said: “there are two loaves, there are two people; you eat two loaves, I eat none, you eat one loaf per capita “. That there are two loaves and two people does not mean that it is the real distribution. This is now evident in the context of the pandemic, the poorest people must still go out to look for work; at the same time, statistics have shown that infected people correspond to these same social strata, of poverty, of vulnerability, of invisibility of the state in its realities.
Specifically, at the territorial level, it is a very complex situation in Chile, our country has very few policies or strategies applied at the territorial and regional level. The policies that have been taken to address Covid-19 and poverty are at the national level. At this point, another element that prevents the development of democracy, centralism, stands out, it prevents participation, and in this case the characteristics of the locality.
“Let’s understand that the 32 communes of Araucanía have approximately 40 to 50% of the rural population or rural territory, and that changes the conditions concerning other regions.”
There have been no specific determinations for the region, but there are national determinations such as the Special Family Income, which is also very complex because, finally, what it does is grant the poorest 40% within the household classification scale. The problem is that this statistic has complex characterizations because people have been left out of state benefits since their situation does qualify; With this, it is evident that the categorizations are poorly done, some people have more scores than the reality they have. This eventually becomes a serious public investment problem.
Another element of public implementation is the delivery of food boxes; the problem with this is that it is assigned at the central level. The government then put out to tender businesses so that they could buy these foods and then deliver them nationwide.
When we proposed together with many entities, NGOs, and foundations that these resources should be derived at the regional level and later at the local level of the municipalities. Why? Because the important thing is to help the people who need it with food, but also to generate dynamism in the local economy, in the territory, which is where this problem of people without work occurs. There are also local entrepreneurs or producers, who are currently having a hard time selling their resources and being able to hire people. In this way we can see that these measures are palliative or of reaction, it is not a planned action and that is what is lacking, planning is needed to be able to face this situation in the country.
The ideal would have been to distribute resources directly to municipal/local spaces and through the municipality to articulate it with local entrepreneurs, producers, and companies. Also manage a public-private job where resources can be well used, such as the forestry trucks take the raw material to the north and return empty to the south, they could easily bring merchandise or any type of aid to the people who need it here in the region.
“The point is to take responsibility at this time for the territory to work regularly.”
We are still working under the logic of centralism, the regions and communes are still not given power or autonomy to be able to decide, and this has also shown that the main actor at the moment is the mayors, and that is evident in all the media, because the mayors with their reduced budgets have had to face these crises, and they have done so from where they can, from primary health care which works better than hospital care, which is in charge of the Ministry of health. The municipalities are also delivering food boxes but with municipal funds, which are funds for the operation of the commune for the whole year. So it is necessary to empower local actors because they are demanding more space, more participation, and this also allows power to be lowered to the territories because there is a lot of potentials for real work to better alleviate this situation. It should be noted that within the region we have the 4 poorest communes in the country, apart from being seen from another point by the Mapuche conflict, our reality is much more powerful than that of other regions at the national level. The government should work together with the mayors and this is the time to do it, we cannot react to the rates of poverty and of those infected, we must have planned so that the virus does not reach us.
Work of Social Organizations
The creation of NGOs and intermediate level foundations in Latin America have a very important role since they allow communication between social organizations and the state. Often intermediate organizations like us, develop the work that the state cannot do or where it does not arrive, such as the Melton Foundation that works the concept of global citizenship strengthening the work of university students is something that in this training they do not receive, the boys receive technical information; but in the foundation they allow them to have a global knowledge of what it is to be a global citizen, and that are values of postmodern society, they are values that we must all integrate.
We work together with other organizations, such as Fundación Superación de la Pobreza, Desafío Levantemos Chile, with indigenous foundations and institutes, and each of them is carrying out specific work in the territory where the state cannot reach. This work is complemented by teams of professionals that allow us to have more technical analyzes, mainly because we have a direct relationship with universities and with technical entities that allow us to have better data, also to always be on the ground, better arrival, and by not having a political color, this we allow having more direct and trustworthy access, having a better articulation relationship with social organizations. So what we constantly try to do is promote this linkage model within the real needs of people, such as: together with MF we are developing a food delivery campaign through a campaign to collect money, but that money is focused on buying food; but the food that is bought, in this case in 3 communes: Imperial, Carahue and Puerto Saavedra, a part is bought in groceries but from local producers, this means that we buy from a minimarket in that commune. The people who sell us the other products are local producers, so we are inserting that money into the people of the territory, which allows people who already have the product available and who have not been able to sell as local mini-producers so that they can receive a little money aside from the help that we are going to give them. So this aid is directly related to the link, linking the municipality with agricultural development programs, which at the same time articulates with the people of the social programs, who are the beneficiaries of this food box, and who at the same time articulate with us and donors; that is why the program is called “Interlocking Families”, we seek that families who can deliver this contribution can interlace with people who do not have it, but at the same time that local support is generated or it tends to inject resources for local development.
In “Interlocking Families”, the donor family must know the reality of the family in need, but not in a sense of charity, but a sense of reality.
A study by the Sol Foundation called “The Poverty of the Chilean Model” shows that the income of Chilean families is mainly focused on a base that no one conceives, which the state contribution is, and that is both state and government. She also says that the official poverty in Chile so far is 9%; if state transfer subsidies such as welfare and bonds are removed, poverty increases by 13%. If the imputed rent is taken out, poverty increases by 24%, and about autonomous income (wages) it increases to 3 out of every 10 Chileans. Chilean society shows itself abroad as if it had a lot of income, but the reality is that its distribution is concentrated in 1-2% of the population, the other 98% ~ has income that is essential from the state’s contribution base. This is serious because in these moments of crisis if they are left without work they would only have the basal contribution of the state as sustenance.
Interlaced Family Project
This project between Fundación Melton and Innova País is being developed in 4 communes: Ercilla, Carahue, Puerto Saavedra, and Imperial. What we did was ask the municipalities for the lists of people from DIDECO, women heads of household, heads of household for older adults, people who are prostrate or with reduced mobility, and children under 18 years of age. With this filter, we can reach people who have not received help from the government or other institutions or foundations, because we are also concerned with crossing this information with databases of other foundations that are carrying out work in those communities. What we found were very complex situations, while all concerned about the situation of the COVID and food we realize that people in Saavedra still do not have water that is, they do not have the basic minimum input that life gives. Just as having gone to the municipality, we realized that they were the time of the month that they were going to visit them, because they are towns that in winter are isolated due to the difficulty of the road with the rain, if a cistern truck has to go and leave water In winter it is almost impossible due to poor accessibility. The good thing was that with these visits we were able to later manage certain requirements with the Ministry of Social Development and with the Seremi de Salud. In Carahue we managed to manage remedies for bedridden people, who were sick and who were chronic.
The work carried out by different leaders is very important, not only the foundations or NGOs but also the leaders who lead their community, the neighborhood councils that have managed food for those who need it most. It is important to support these tasks, put themselves at the service and support these organizations, so that help reaches people with these problems.
As organizations, we have made efforts, but it is never enough, there is always more. This is the time to leave our individualistic mentality and think collectively, it is the time to change this vision that we have developed, which has finally revealed the fragility of the socio-economic system that we have created. It is a crucial moment for humanity in which we can confront this pandemic, this crisis of socio-political models, it is the moment to confront it jointly, jointly, it is the moment to think about real solutions and not as innovation projects, sustainable and sustainable, healthy solutions that allow articulation with the actors and that allow equal and equitable access to all people.
Connect with the Innova Pais Foundation on social media — follow, share and subscribe to their work, and help them, and many other similar organizations striving towards Sustainable Development! 🙂