Last week’s polls reveal pessimistic reactions to President François Hollande’s economic policies, with 56 % of those interrogated foreseeing no improvement in France’s economy for the next five years. On the 13th and 14th of September, 1000 participants in the “Forum on Positive Economy” gathered at Le Havre, all with a fresh perspective on the global situation. These key players (CEOs, NGOs, and explorers alike) share the vision of an economy whose goal is not solely to maximize profit—they value a dimension of altruism, too. In their minds, globalization implies increased interdependence. A helping hand could have a domino effect.
“I would like to remark that when there is an economy, it is not always positively regarded,” notes Hollande at his keynote speech in the forum, delivered via webcam. With provisions to cut spending by 33 million euros this year by increasing taxes coupled with an expected growth of a meager 1 %, the President leaves many disillusioned, throwing their darts of frustration into the generalized board entitled “Economy.” But their complaints might not be so different than the issues that the LH Forum seeks to solve—bull’s eye?
Attali, Mitterand’s ex-consultant and PlaNet Finance’s president, hears these complaints, especially since the economic crises: “What has changed is the fact that there is now a growing awareness of a precarious situation for everyone.” Following this logic, helping yourself might alleviate the worries of others. He adds a degree of maturity to the model by pointing out that we must strive for “an economy that considers money like the brush of a painter and not the final work of art.” That is, a transaction should go beyond just a monetary sum, to benefit society and the environment.
Humanizing globalization sounds ideal in theory, but how to go about it in practice? Microfinance seems to be the answer of the forum. Guest speakers had twenty minutes to explain their views on positive economy. For instance, Sulabh Sanitation movement leader Pathak brings 1.2 million low-cost pour-flush toilets to India. Not only has he liberated one million untouchables through employment, he also converts the excrement waste to bio-gas, an excellent energy source.
Exemplary figures like Pathak, who make local gestures a global improvement, may leave their audience with symptoms of insignificance complex. Not to be discouraged, though, is the message of the LH forum. JR’s photography exhibit at the forum entitled “Around the World of Positive Economy” featured inspiring images of leaders of Pathak’s breed.
Going back to the domestic level, one might ask how to implement positive economy in France, starting with governmental policies. According to Francois Chereque, Secretary General of CFDT (French Democratic Confederation of Labor), the treatment of employees should be rethought before even striving for a positive economy. Doing just that, Hollande proposed a reward system at the LH forum, which will sanction companies that do not promote equality or environmentally sustainable projects—a positive step in the right direction.