Three pillars of Peruvian society in the face of the sociopolitical crisis
By: Juan Diego Linares Jaime and Victor Eduardo Galicia Pereira
This article provides a brief analysis of the effects of the socio-political crisis in Peru on three important pillars of society: the economy, health and education. Although they are considered current problems, the country has been dragging them along for a long time, even though we enjoy - to a certain extent - institutional strength in the economic sphere, health and education are neglected.
Is the crisis affecting the country's economy?
Given the turbulent and uncertain political context in the country, it is natural to wonder what, if any, economic repercussions this will bring. Given the blockades and revolts that have been generated, economic movement has stagnated. A first response has been rising costs, both in terms of growth and economic development. The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), as of 23 January, estimated the cost of the protests at 2.15 billion soles (RPP, 2023). According to the head of the MEF, Alex Contreras, the cause of most of the losses is due to the blocking of roads in the south of the country, which are essential for mining and tourism activities (Villar, 2023). Likewise, the regions of Cusco, Madre de Dios and Puno have not developed major works and projects, which affects both local and national development (RPP, 2023; Villar, 2023). It should be noted that this estimate does not include the damage to infrastructure which, as has been seen in various media, is not minor (Villar, 2023).
On the other hand, with regard to future repercussions, the MEF has maintained its economic growth projection in a range of between 3.1% and 3.9%, with the expectation that the situation will change; otherwise, growth is expected to be 2%. Regarding the impact that the current context could have on inflation, Contreras pointed out that year-on-year inflation would rise to more than 8.5%, which has indeed happened, since, according to the latest INEI price report, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) at the national level has risen to 8.87% (INEI, 2023). Thus, with respect to employment, no major effects on the employment rate are expected in the long term, although it is perhaps still too early to give any estimates in this respect.
Not only our economy, but also our health, how is it affected by socio-political problems?
It is necessary to mention that Peru's current problem is not only linked to the failed coup d'état of former president Castillo, but to a much deeper trauma that goes back years, where the country suffered at the hands of corruption at all levels of government and the pain caused by terrorism. As DW (2022) mentions, "the police violence is evidence of a contempt that hides the hatred and hidden racism in the country, because almost all the dead are of Andean and indigenous descent".
To achieve the reconciliation of all Peruvians, resentments will have to be overcome by implementing intensive government mental health policies aimed at combating the large social gaps in education, culture and community mental health care (PUCP, 2022). In order to strengthen a single national identity, major social problems such as racism, stigmatisation, social inequality, among others, which constitute the pathological basis of a fragmented and third-world Peru, must be addressed. A more united and reflective Peru is what all Peruvians need.
It is the turn of education, how vulnerable is it to the political crisis?
As if the slap in the face of COVID, which set back Peruvian education by 10 years (United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF], 2022), were not enough, for years we have been facing a "tantrum" of politicians who cannot agree and are looking after their own interests.
Former education minister Marilú Martens (2022) mentions that the political crisis does not allow for progress in education because each minister (of education) does not even last a year in office and the next one who enters office does so with a different plan, and when a new president enters office, the same thing happens; in the end it is like starting from scratch without a defined direction. Moreover, the advances that are proposed to improve education are often contradicted by others who prioritise particular interests. It makes sense for politicians, but not for the rest of Peruvians.
On the other hand, the theoretical course of Civic Education, which should be the most important course given the situation already explained, differs diametrically with the practice. In other words, students know what is bad and good in a society, but in the end it is that same society that they must fit into. Excellent! give them a mark of twenty (20) in the civics course and zero (0) in applied civics. And this has nothing to do with education (not much at least), nor with time, nor even with whether one is left or right, but with common sense.
After so many bad things, is there anything positive to come out of this?
If it can be said, these political crises that lead to social struggles usually end in setbacks for the country; however, it is also a slap on the wrist for the governments that then often put the focus on the population that initiates these struggles. This is demonstrated by the increase in social programmes and projects that benefit the people in the areas where the strikes take place, and because they feel that they are forgotten, they tend to be more manipulative, and not for that reason, guilty.
Peru is suffering and we are doing little to heal it. The people most responsible for putting things right, the politicians, fight incessantly, motivated more by their own interests than by collective ones. We enjoy an economy with "leaks" everywhere as money disappears daily as a result of corruption, which at first glance seems imperceptible, but in the long term the consequences will be felt. In fact, they are already being felt. Hatred and resentment will not lead to anything good, as these uncontrolled feelings end up manifesting themselves in violence and separation, a vicious circle that will never end. On the other hand, an educational model with practical and real actions is important to reach reflection and obtain new results, but the State does not encourage it (much less implement it). Peruvians cannot develop their skills through the current teaching model. A country cannot develop on the basis of economics alone, it needs more than that from governments and citizens, and that now, at least, is not enough.
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