Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the Special Meeting of the OECD Council: Address by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos
7 November 2014, Paris, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Dearest President, dear Ambassadors,
It is my great honour to introduce to Council once again the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, nearly four years after he last addressed the OECD’s premier decision-making body.
Since first taking office in 2010, President Santos has drawn on his considerable experience, both as an economist and as a former Finance and Foreign Trade Minister, to lead his country through a series of ambitious reforms and in advancing Colombia on the path to peace, prosperity and membership of the OECD. The Colombian people saw fit to reward his efforts in 2014 with a well-deserved re-election.
President Santos has established three priorities for his second term: equity, education and peace. One of the purposes of his visit to the OECD today is to update us on the peace negotiations with the FARC – a stepping stone to ending a half century of conflict.
Official visit of President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos at the OECD. Photo: OECD/Julien Daniel
In recent years, Colombia’s economy has been a top performer. This year, when Latin America is expected to grow by only 1.1% on average, Colombia is expected to grow at almost 5%, a rate many OECD members can only aspire to.
Poverty has declined substantially, and the government’s major reform efforts – including a new fiscal framework and labour market reforms – have contributed to improving the economic and social situation. Certainly, many challenges remain to deliver Inclusive Growth, but Colombia is fast moving in the right direction.
Mr. President, let me reiterate that you can count on OECD support as you continue in your ambitious reform efforts. The OECD accession process is intended to support Colombia’s domestic policy agenda by acting as a catalyst for further reflection and reform. The process is a 360 degree in-depth review by 23 expert committees, using OECD legal instruments and good practices as a yardstick, and including a series of recommendations on legislation and policy improvements. It is an intense process, with no less than 11 committee discussions scheduled between now and the end of the year!
Colombia is well advanced in the accession process, and well-integrated into the work of the Organisation. This year alone, close to 500 delegates from Colombia have already attended more than 1600 OECD meetings. Colombia has already joined key instruments such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the Investment Declaration, and the Convention on the Exchange of Tax Information.
As you put the finishing touches to your three-pronged National Development Plan, we are happy to have been asked for substantive inputs. Similarly, we are ready to work with you on the comprehensive reforms you are considering to your tax and pension systems.
The OECD, too, has much to gain from this engagement. OECD Members are already benefiting from the unique experience that Colombia brings to the table – including reforms to improve the way royalties from natural resources are distributed at sub-national level.
Our cooperation with Colombia is also helping to strengthen the OECD’s engagement with Latin America and its regional institutions and associations, such as the Pacific Alliance.
President Santos is a remarkable leader, whom I have had the pleasure to meet a number of times since he was first elected. Given the breadth and complexity of the OECD accession process, high-level political leadership is of the utmost importance. In this regard, I would like to thank the President for investing his precious time and energy in Colombia’s accession and for being with us here today in Paris.
President Santos, it is with great pleasure that I give you the floor.