As the owner of a small farm, you get a little taste of government. You are the welfare state, the health service, the central bank and little bit of mum and dad all in one delightfully convenient package. I have learnt my lesson not to ask so many questions about why no singing from the garden, why the long faces, what is wrong - opens up a can of worms.
First request of the week, a bail out. For all those of you investing in cooperative schemes, listen up. Our little expanding village with lots of nice little new houses for local people is largely funded by loans. These loans in the past were small ones given usually by small cooperative banks that working men and women belong to. One of the terms of these loans was that they should be exclusive because they lent to the limit that an individual could afford.
What appears to have happened to one of our workers, was that he has taken on other debt. There were no checks that he was already leveraged to the hilt. These financiers have persuaded men, Latinos, of very limited means to take out loans they don't understand and can not pay back. When they don't pay, their houses can be re-possessed and they loose the little they have. Sounds horribly familiar and if you thought that double digit growth for this small country was unrealistic - in my opinion, it is and is fueled by credit.
Worse, the agricultural worker Latino man in Panama mostly has little idea of what it means to be deliver on a commitment such as a bank loan or debt. If you want stuff you have to work hard and pay for it. That is the devils deal, take it or leave it. This equation, the rules of the capitalism, and the stress that goes with that are far from understood here. Here paternal employment laws and an almost feudal system mean workers are very unprepared for these responsibilities and are way too easy going.
The request, I am not sure I fully understood as it was in Spanish, but I think I was asked to take on the bank loan and in turn deduct from salary. To take on the risk and the responsibility for another adults decisions. Even the request for my help was half hearted, poorly prepared and disorganized, a lazy and rather sad and very naive request given the importance of the issue. More so in the light of the fact that I had already made a very small loan a few weeks ago, and the attempt to pay this back with overtime work has been less than impressive.
Thank goodness for the second request of the day from another worker on the farm, our Indigenous family: Could he please take some of the spare wood from pruning the coffee up to his church for a camp fire picnic on Sunday and might he borrow a wheel barrow after work for an evening to take it 3 miles up the road in the rain.
God bless him, his family and the church and this happy ending to a week of requests. We gave him and the wood a ride up to the church this evening and are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather for the picnic on Sunday. There is some hope.