PROJECTS: The Other Path
Like many emerging market-based economies throughout South America, Africa, and even many of the former Soviet republics, Peru is a case study in both the tumultuous nature by which free market economies develop and a reminder that they, like democracy itself, are a perpetual work in progress. More importantly, it is also a study of the will power of individuals and communities to effect change rather than wait for it to reach them.
In Peru 67% of the population operate in some capacity outside of the legal system. Eighty percent of all construction is extralegal, 80% of all buses and taxis, 70% of all food sellers and markets and 67% of all clothes made are extra legal. Corruption in the form of high taxes and long waits for permits and licenses prevent many from legally entering the marketplace. It can take over two years to gain a permit to sell produce and cost over $8,000. Over 54% of the people live below the poverty line of $648 per year, making it impossible for them to afford the legal route. As a result, many have created markets - commonly referred to a black markets - I prefer instead the term informal markets – and economies out of necessity that are organized and very efficient and allow those outside of the legal economy to make a living.
A wheelbarrow becomes a family store. A grill becomes a neighborhood restaurant. Brothers and sisters are the daycare for working families, creating a stronger family bond. And traditions of craft and skill are passed along to each new generation.
Out of necessity, ingenuity and perseverance, the people of Peru have not only created opportunities for themselves and their communities, they have also forced the federal government to take notice by rivaling, and at times, surpassing the growth of the national economy.