Stock-Exchange Forum Promotes Indigenous Participation in Capitalism

Democratization of Investment Offered as Boost for Guatemalan Productivity

Fritz Thomas (center): "Our goal is to find market proposals and solutions." (@pareanogt)

More than 100 students and business leaders came together on Wednesday evening to address a pertinent question for Guatemala: how can the population harness a stock exchange in a win-win manner and boost prosperity for the nation.

The forum was open to the public, as an opportunity to generate debate beyond the university community. (@FergHodgson)

Hosted by the Noj Open Forum* of Francisco Marroquín University (UFM) and led by Economics Professor Fritz Thomas, the forum featured two guest speakers: Rolando San Román, CEO of the National Stock Exchange, and Cristian Novales, an attorney with his own firm, Novales Abogados. After each spoke for approximately half an hour, attendees were able to ask questions of the three-person panel.

The event organizers titled it “The Stock Exchange as an Instrument for Development in Guatemala,” and San Román drove that point home right from the start. His key assertion was that without investment, both from within and without, there can be no capital formation. Without capital formation, productivity and employment prospects will remain severely limited.

Rolando San Roman, chief executive of the Guatemalan Stock Exchange, said “Guatemala needs capital and funding to escape poverty.” (@pareanogt)

He noted the success stories of stock exchanges elsewhere that have become not only financial intermediaries but catalysts for better information and innovation. The National Stock Exchange in Guatemala, on the other hand, remains relatively unknown and limited largely to debt sales, offering neither the returns nor the confidence for equities. Thus the country leans heavily towards tightly held family businesses, with people inclined to invest in offshore stock markets.

The proposal to turn this around came from Novales, who advocated a democratization of the exchange: an open market with more participants and, therefore, more advocates for its success. In other words, if the rural population were to own shares, they would want to see those rise, and the capitalist institution would be working more explicitly in their favor.

Novales referenced Article Six of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labour Organization, which states that “these peoples can freely participate, to at least the same extent as other sectors of the population.” His desire is to see participation akin to that witnessed in Canada, where various aboriginal bands own shares in infrastructure projects and profit from them. However, he believes this will take a sustained outreach campaign to build sufficient goodwill.

Virginia De La Torre, a UFM law student in attendance, said “The problem here is that indigenous communities receive money to oppose large infrastructure projects. It would be wonderful if this solution were promoted so that indigenous people could understand that the benefits to them would be in the long term.”

At the conclusion of the event, Thomas shared with Antigua Report that “most discussion forums about social and public problems tend to rest almost exclusively on solutions involving government actions, in contrast to the emphasis of [UFM and Noj]. We want to move away from that perspective to discover and raise market solutions.”

* Noj is a symbol for one of the days of the Mayan calendar, which represents wisdom and developing ideas.

Fergus Hodgson contributed to this article.

Patricia Areano
Patricia Areano was the Antigua Report personal assistant.

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