OECD Secretary-General

My Strategic Orientations and New Approaches to Economic Challenges


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivred at the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting 2012 - Wednesday 23 May, 2012

(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this MCM, appropriately structured under the theme of: ”All on Board – Policies for Growth and Jobs”, we are proud to deliver on the tasks that you requested from us in our 50th Ministerial meeting last year. Our contributions to find sustainable solutions to the major policy challenges include:

  • Development (strengthening and upgrading “the whole of the OECD” contribution to this undertaking, considering the Busan Partnership and the MDG deadline);
  • Gender (we cannot afford to waste the contribution that women can make to growth and development);
  • Skills (a very important element not only to enhance growth prospects, but also the well-being of people).

Throughout this year, we have worked with every one of our Members to address specific policy challenges. Italy, Greece and Spain required our very immediate action on the structural front. But I also conducted 47 trips abroad. In each of them, I worked closely with your governments and your Ambassadors to deliver specific policy recommendations tailored to each country’s needs.

Going forward, the Organization will deliver on these important tasks. But also on the institutional issues you asked us to address. First, by continuing to contribute to the G20 and the G8 endeavours. Second, by continuing to work with Russia on its accession process. In both areas we have been very active.

On our Outreach Strategy, I welcome our Key partners. We have been working closely with them in many areas. In this OECD week, Tunisia, Morocco and Colombia are joining some very important OECD instruments. This contributes towards the deliver on our mandate to build a more open an inclusive organization.

On the substance, we have developed an agenda to use our multidisciplinary capacity to support you in your effort to enhance growth. But we are now facing a prolongation of the crisis, with its respective challenges: restoring growth and unemployment; deleveraging and fiscal consolidation; recovering business and household confidence; reducing inequalities and improving people’s expectations. So we need to work together to build an inclusive agenda for growth, but also to define more effective policy options.

First, we need to revise and upgrade our analytical frameworks, but also to better understand the interactions, trade-offs and synergies among different policies. We are asking our Members to launch an initiative on New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC).

We are proposing that our countries take a look in the mirror and see if they like what they see. We propose to examine the various dimensions of stability, green growth, sustainability, equality and place-based growth factors, which drive our economies and societies.

To start, we would like to look at the main lessons from the crisis and their policy implications. Building on this, we may wish to discuss specific areas in which the framework may need to be revisited. For example, we may want to reflect on how to better understand the balance between adjustment and growth, or between growth, employment and inequality, and the linkages between the financial market and the real economy.  

We also need to continue developing and improving our tools to measure progress. Improvement efforts should start with the issue of trade in value-added terms, where the participation and involvement of countries in different parts of the production chain may change the way we think about international trade, jobs and investment. As Pascal Lamy has mentioned, we need to build a new narrative that removes us from the zero-sum game of traditional trade towards a better understanding of the complex interdependencies that govern the international trading system.

This will shed light on how the expansion of global production networks affects employment. This effort will help us confront the rise of protectionism by refocusing international trade policy discussions. It is crucial, in this area, to stay at the forefront of new global developments.

Another relevant issue that comes to mind is “good government”. We will continue strengthening our anti-corruption agenda and developing high standards to foster integrity throughout the world.

We will also mainstream our Green Growth Strategy and develop it further to deal with rising resource scarcity and environmental damages, and to meet the specific challenges of developing and emerging-market economies. We will look at the implementation of the Green Growth Strategy at the city and regional levels and develop indicators to measure progress. But there will be no green growth without innovation.

Therefore, we will further deepen our work on the basis of our Innovation Strategy, by orienting it towards the development of a knowledge-based economy.

This is linked to the fact that services represent an increasing share of our economies. We will look at the role of state-owned enterprises in trade, at export restrictions of raw materials, and at the emergence of a “new industrial policy” paradigm focusing on innovation, technology and infrastructure. Strengthening our work on new sources of growth will focus on how to analyse, use and foster such knowledge-based assets to produce the largest benefits for our economies and societies.

Growth remains the driving force for prosperity and well-being of our citizens, but we need to generate a new type of growth; one that promotes more inclusiveness, better participation and equal opportunities. This is important, both in an economic and social context.

I propose to focus our work for “growth and jobs” on:

  • The promotion of new sources of growth, such as innovation, skills, green growth, and gender equality;
  • The implementation of further necessary structural and social reforms to lift the growth potential of our economies, tackle increasing inequalities, and prepare for rapid population ageing;
  • The implementation of targeted employment policies, in particular for youth, upgrading skills and education.

To make this new type of growth more inclusive, it is also key to foster comprehensive approaches to skills policies. In today’s gloomy economic scenario, investing in the current generation of workers provides a promising avenue  to enhance future productivity and growth.

We will also follow up on our ground-breaking work on inequality, looking at middle-class expectations and new vulnerabilities. We will continue providing advice on how social protection systems can be strengthened, while enhancing labour market outcomes. In addition, we will develop concrete tools to make the most of migration and improve the integration of immigrants in the labour market.

Finally, we need to continue working with our Better Life Initiative, so that it will better capture what policies are about in terms of well-being.

Last but not least, in a challenging budgetary environment, you can be rest assured that we will address the above-mentioned priorities while paying close attention to our shared efficiency concerns. Thus, we will continue providing value-for-money for our Members.


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