Remarks by Angel Gurría,
Strasbourg, 30 September 2015
(As prepared for delivery)
President Brasseur, Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to join you for this conversation on the activities of the OECD, which has become a very rewarding annual tradition. Your reflections, feedback and challenging questions always help to spur us forward in our quest to deliver better policies for better lives.
I extend a special thanks to the author of this year’s report, Mr Tuur Elzinga (Netherlands). I would like to commend you on a thought-provoking and extremely thorough report, one which provides an excellent basis for our discussions.
30 September 2015 - OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria addressing the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg.
Photo: Council of Europe
Addressing the migration crisis
I want to start my remarks with a thought for the tens of thousands of migrants who are risking their lives in hope of safety, an opportunity to work and better lives for their families.
We have been deeply moved by the tragedies that we have been witnessing in Europe in recent months. Europe can and should build on its core values of solidarity and humanity to respond to this challenge. Beyond the crucial issues of quotas and re-settlement, which unfortunately remain partly unsettled so far, integration programmes must be scaled-up and adapted to make sure refugees integrate as quickly and successfully as possible in their host countries.
We also need to foster a dialogue with the countries of origin of transit and with all OECD countries. The OECD has a long expertise and is offering support to its Member countries. We are ready to help.
In fact, we just launched the 39th edition of the OECD International Migration Outlook which analyses the latest trends in migration, along with a policy brief on the current crisis. A few weeks back, we also launched our report Settling In, which provides the first broad international comparison across all EU and OECD countries of the economic and social outcomes of immigrants and their children in host countries. It shows that much remains to be done to improve the integration of immigrants so that we can all benefit from their energy and diversity.
Immigration is an asset and we can turn the ongoing humanitarian migration crisis into a net positive economic, fiscal and social outcome.
The global economic and social situation
Turning to the current economic situation, our most recent interim Economic Outlook indicates that global growth will remain sub-par in 2015 (forecast to slow to 3%) and will somewhat strengthen to 3.6% in 2016.
The US is the one bright spot, where recovery remains solid, driven by private consumption. Growth in the euro area is improving, but slower than might be expected; while the Japanese recovery remains weak. International trade, investment and credit, the cylinders of the growth engine, continue at half speed.
A larger-than-expected slowdown in China and other emerging economies is looming as a major risk, as is the associated financial turmoil it could cause for the global economy.
Despite some recent progress, the legacies of the crisis also remain well anchored. Our July Employment Outlook showed that 42 million people are still out of work across the OECD – 10 million more than just before the crisis!
On inequality, our recent report In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All, shows that the gap continues to widen! The richest 10% of the population in the OECD now earn nearly 10 times the income of the poorest 10%.
The report also estimates that rising inequality has knocked nearly 9 percentage points off growth in the UK, Finland and Norway; and between 6 and 7 points in the US, Italy and Sweden. On the other hand, greater equality prior to the crisis helped increase GDP per capita in Spain, France and Ireland.
OECD: Acting across the board
At the OECD, we have recognised that our economic models, our economies, are not working for all. They need to be rethought and redesigned through new, and better, economic theories and models. That’s why we have made a great effort to refresh our ways of thinking across the house and across the board. Let me give you some concrete examples.
Since its launch in 2012, the OECD New Approaches to Economic Challenges - OLD (NAEC) initiative has played a crucial role in helping to define an Inclusive Growth Agenda and to learn lessons from the crisis and improve the way we tackle long-term challenges.
This thinking is filtering through into our policy analysis and advice, as exemplified in a new metric we are developing of multidimensional living standards, a new framework for measuring and assessing job quality, and new analysis on the relationship between finance and inclusive growth.
Building on this year’s OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, which focused on investment, we are further developing the productivity and inclusiveness agenda, looking at ways to restart the technology diffusion machine and ensure that workers are well prepared for the next production revolution. We are also building on our ground-breaking work on Trade in Value Added, our Services trade and our Trade Facilitation Indicators, which have gone a long way towards “decoding the trade genome”. And we are planning a new round of investment reviews, based on the revised Policy Framework for Investment, as well as further dialogue on investment agreements and dispute resolution.
2015: A year of unique opportunity
I just came back from New York where I participated in the special United Nations Summit that adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It’s an ambitious agenda, and one which we must seize. We have about 800 weeks to eradicate extreme poverty, everywhere. That’s 800 weeks to lift 800 million people out of extreme poverty. And that’s only the first goal. We also need to do it in ways that address inequalities, promote opportunities, and ensure sustainability for generations to come.
The OECD will play its part, and is already gearing up to support the implementation of the SDGs through our wide-ranging policy advice, monitoring of country progress and the provision of a platform for policy dialogue.
The COP21 meeting in Paris this December is another opportunity not to be missed by the global community. More ambition by all the stakeholders is paramount! In this respect, leaving fossil fuel behind implies a transformation that will cut across every corner of the economy and hence, every policy domain. Our major report, Aligning Policies for a Low Carbon Economy, sketches the scale of this transformational challenge.
We are also working hard to help countries improve the enabling conditions for green investment and get better at tracking climate financing. 2015 also saw the Third International Conference on Financing for Development take place in Addis Ababa where taxation was a core part of the discussion.
In this respect, I’m pleased to report that the OECD-G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project is moving ahead at full speed. The final outcomes of the project will be presented to the G20 Finance Ministers in Lima next week. Together with the other two pillars of our international tax agenda, Automatic Exchange of Tax Information and Tax, we are in the middle of an unprecedented transformation that will lead to a fairer and more effective international tax system.
Let me stress that implementation must be global and inclusive: achieving a level playing field is key and tax loopholes should not shift between countries. Equally important is the need for developing countries to have their say and be fully involved on an equal footing. I am therefore pleased that we received a mandate from the recent G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Ankara, to develop just such a framework by early 2016.
Distinguished parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are living a unique moment, a great moment. 2015 is filled with remarkable opportunities. Let’s not waste this historic chance. As Boris Pasternak once said, “When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.” Let’s capture and make the most of this moment.
Our discussions and work with you, the legislators, is fundamental in keeping our finger on society’s pulse and in aiming to design, develop and deliver better policies for better lives.
I look forward to your questions. Thank you.