Living in Medellin is like living in a city in the jungle…which, come to think of it, that’s essentially what Medellin is. There is foliage everywhere, little brooks, trees all along the sidewalk. It’s really quite lovely and about the opposite of Bogota in this regard (all cement, little green apart from the parks, polluted). Check out the two short videos below I took to see what I mean (they’re 15-20 seconds each).
Anything mostly dependent on human labor tends to be very good and very cheap here.
This is because, in my opinion (not an economist), labor is cheap here and the unemployment rate is high, which means employers can not only be selective about who they hire, thereby ensuring they get the best workers for the job at hand, but they can also pay them relatively little, thereby getting the best of both worlds (for them and the consumer) in that it results in the end product or service being both good and inexpensive (relative to what it costs in the developed world).
As I noted in this previous observation, the meat in Colombia is not only much cheaper than what it is in the U.S. but also better quality. I’m at a wonderful cafe right now called Cafe Pergamino, and the lengths they go to in order to deliver an excellent cup of coffee to the customer are just ludicrous (in a good way):
- You have the option of having your coffee brewed in either: a french press, chemex, aeropress, siphon, or as espresso. If you choose espresso, of course you can have it in the form of all the usual suspects (cafe latte, cappuccino, cafe mocha, etc.). I prefer chemex.
- You then choose the type of coffee that you want. They offer three at the moment, all three of which are from Colombia and excellent (I’ve tried all three, yes).
- They will then grind and measure out the coffee they’ll use to brew your drink…and bring it to you to smell to ensure it meets your approval (like being given a sample of wine to try before it’s poured).
They then make your drink. All this, a single serving (which means two cups via chemex, one and a half via french press, or a large mug via the other two), costs a grand total of…5900 pesos. That’s almost exactly $2US. And yes, the coffee really is superb.
Very high quality, very cheap. This is what I’m talking about. How?
What I suspect (and that’s the best I can do right now: suspect/guess) is that the total production cost of this product consists mostly of labor expenses (growing and picking the beans, roasting and transporting them, brewing and serving the coffee at the final retail establishment), and wages in Colombia at the moment are very low, which results in labor-intensive products and services being cheap and, because of the selectivity the high unemployment rate gives employers, high quality as well because the production is done by highly qualified people.
What do you think? Do you think I’m correct in my reasoning? What do you think about the ethical and moral implications of this? There’s no avoiding “taking advantage of those people” here, you can’t avoid purchasing products and services while you’re here and not coming to Colombia at all actually would hurt them more.