I currently live on an island somewhere in the Philippines, in a city called Cebu. Here is where I’m studying to get my marketing degree and possibly in the near future, a degree in economics. I lived here since I was seventeen and I guess I could already call this place home.
But that’s not the focus of this article. Before I decided to study in Cebu City, I grew up in a small town in the island of Leyte named Palompon, which used to be a small community mostly run by Spanish Jesuits back in the colonial era. It’s a second class municipality and is a great place for tourists who’d wish to look at the mangrove islet of Tabuk or the white sand beach of Kalanggaman.
It is also there that one would find a certain cooperative entity, the Palompon Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative Incorporated (PACCI), which had been serving the town’s populace for years. I’ve observed that the cooperative has indeed done so much for the town’s commercial needs, as well as providing social justice for its members and for society as a whole.
To give examples, PACCI administers a daycare center where I was in before I was sent to Catholic school for my pre-school and primary education. During my elementary years—if I could still recall—the cooperative even suggested that we’d try out their program where kids could open their own savings accounts.
PACCI also has land-transportation services. Whenever someone speaks of travelling to Tacloban City, they would usually say that they would “… ride a PACCI,” that is, they would ride a bus of the cooperative which transports passengers from Palompon to Tacloban and vice-versa at reasonable rates.
When speaking of commercial establishments, PACCI has a hotel in the heart of the municipality which includes amenities such as a restaurant, a convention area, etc. I don’t think any pension house or lodging house could stand up to PACCI’s hotel, and the services it renders.
That being said, I can firmly attest that any cooperative or credit union would play a very great role in molding society towards progress and at the same time, providing justice. Just imagine if there were more of them. Or better yet, just imagine a society whose economic foundation rests upon cooperatives and credit unions.
Let us first define a cooperative as …
… a private business organization that is owned and controlled by the people who use its products, supplies or services.
This is for the members’ mutual benefit—which would then benefit society as a whole due to the cooperative’s democratic nature. They not only work for the business; they also own the business, unlike corporations where only a few stockholders who merely invest are “owners” and where workers or employees are actually “owned” by whom they work for, at the mercy of contracts and being given wages or salaries.
One might dismiss cooperatives as something unimportant and inferior in comparison with corporations. But certain cooperative models have actually been proven to be at par or even more successful than corporations. Of course, we probably have the best model for that, and that is Mondragón, which I’ve already mentioned in my previous article and which is the seventh largest Spanish company in terms of asset turnovers.
In recent years, many successful cooperatives or cooperative models have sprung up and they’ve rendered a great deal of service to society and the economy.
Farmers’ cooperatives manage 99% of the Sweden’s dairy production, 95% of Japan’s rice harvest, 75% of Canada’s grain and oilseed output and 60% of Italy’s wine production. There are also major commercial banks in Europe which are cooperatively owned: RaboBank in Holland (a global leader in Food & Agri Financing and sustainability-oriented banking), DZ Bank in Germany and Credit Agricole in France (the largest retail banking group in the country). Housing cooperatives are also very prominent, as there are 10,614,000 of them in Europe.
Given the statistics, it would be quite naïve to dismiss cooperatives as something inferior to corporations. Furthermore, in terms of job stability, working as a member of a cooperative is better than working for a corporation. Cooperatives also improve the income of their members who would get better prices, lowered cost of inputs and greater gains in control of market channels.
This is quite thought provoking considering that we live in a society where we work for somebody else and not for ourselves, no matter how we put it. Cooperatives allow us to own our jobs and would allow ownership of businesses to spread forth.
An economy built on cooperatives? Sounds like a distributist economy rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, don’t you think? Considering ownership is not concentrated on a few stockholders, workers would get their share, and property—which Pope Pius XI spoke of being essential to the development of the individual—would be widely distributed.
That being said, I would love to hear your opinions.
 A Cooperative Economy – What Might It Look Like by Jake Karlyle, given at the Hobart conference: Community, Economy and the Environment: Exploring Tasmania’s Future, 15 October 2005
 Cooperatives: An Investment in Democracy and Economic Growth, ACDI VOCA