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13 August, 2014

Tuesday 8 July, TIGE (Trust & Integrity in the Global Economy) conference, Caux Switzerland

Economy’s purpose is to meet human need

Monsignor Stefano Ottani (Photo: TIGE )
Monsignor Stefano Ottani (Photo: TIGE )
Monsignor Stefano Ottani, presbytery of a Catholic Church in Bologna, Italy, delivered a poignant message from the Church's social doctrine. Ottani pointed out the need to put the economy back in its rightful place. He reminded us that, etymologically, ‘profit’ means do (fit) for (pro), i.e. 'acting for the benefit of’. ‘Profit must therefore benefit people, it must serve them.’ 

Ottani talked passionately about the real purpose of the economy which is to fulfil human needs, 'not growth of profit or increasing consumption power but nourishment, health and homes for all. The needs for freedom, peace and justice must be satisfied in an economy. An economy that doesn’t fulfil this need for every human cannot be considered an economy, which should reach the standards of human dignity.' Ottani explained that human dignity should be the key reason behind anything we do, and this would have an immediate effect on today’s economy.

Like other speakers, Ottani wholeheartedly believes that the only true economy is one for the common good. He proclaimed, in agreement with Pope Francis, 'No! To money which governs instead of serving. No! To money which begets violence. We must say no to an economy of exclusion and social inequality. The economy must include justice because otherwise it will kill.’ He gave the example that if the economy pollutes the environment and poisons people it is not an economy.
'Man is the criterion of the economy because we can understand what is right and wrong. We make choices that can stir the direction of the whole story. Our decision of what to consume or not can transform the economy.' There cannot be a drift between the economy and humanity, and in order to change the economy, we have to change the mind-sets of man, Ottani asserted. He challenged the audience: 'To change oneself is a real investment,' and continued, 'When I say man, I mean of course man and woman. Men and women in a real economy have equal value and opportunities. If a family cannot be established in an economy because parents are not supported, it is not a valid economy as it contradicts its purpose.' Ottani reiterated that ‘all profits should act for the benefit of men and women on the physical, emotional and spiritual plains.' 

It was a common notion that pro-fit should act for the benefit of all, yet we all knew that this was not always the case, he said. Ottani believes that companies’ balance sheets should present the profit not as the accumulation of money but as the human profit. 'The true measure of the economy is anthropological.'

He concluded by talking about the role of faith in business. In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel, 2013), Pope Francis declared that we cannot accept an economy of exclusion and inequality anymore. This was bringing a renewal of the social doctrine within the Catholic Church and all over the world. 'Religion can bring about peace, only if we live and practice our values, our principles. By getting closer to God, we will be closer to each other. This is the predisposition to human dignity and it should not stop in the boardroom.’

He ended by stating that 'to bring back trust and integrity in the global economy, we have to bring back the human factor as being the subject, the object and the criteria of any economical activity.'
The speakers in this moving plenary demonstrated that a more human economy is possible if we all work at it. ‘Do not cease to hope and act,’ they encouraged. 

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