Remarks by Angel Gurría
OECD, France - 13 November 2018
(as prepared for delivery)
Mr President, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured and pleased to introduce the President of Costa Rica, Mr. Carlos Alvarado, to the members of the OECD Council. President Alvarado took office on 8 May 2018, and we already had the opportunity to meet in San José last April when he was President Elect. Señor Presidente bienvenido ; está usted en su casa.
President Alvarado is no stranger to the OECD – in his capacity as the Minister of Labour, under the administration of Luis Guillermo Solis, he led the Costa Rican delegation for the accession review conducted by the Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Committee. The review was successfully completed on 30 August 2017.
Costa Rica and the OECD have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. In 2013, Costa Rica sought our expertise in order to advance its reform agenda by commissioning a number of policy reviews, adhering to legal instruments and participating actively in OECD bodies. This was referred to by Costa Rica as an "Action Plan", confirming the country’s political commitment to align its policies with OECD standards and to contribute to the work of the Organisation.
Our relationship was further strengthened in April 2015, when the Council invited Costa Rica to begin accession discussions. With the completion of 12 out of 22 technical reviews, Costa Rica today is half way to becoming our first Central American Member.
In this regard, allow me to thank President Alvarado for Costa Rica’s support in bringing the OECD closer to the region in the context of the OECD-LAC Regional Programme, in particular through the Central America Initiative.
In recent years, Costa Rica has undertaken important reforms to address recommendations from Committees in the context of the accession process. These range from the introduction of the Law against Fiscal Fraud, to the establishment of a National Consumer Protection System which co-ordinates consumer protection policy.
However, the ten reviews that are still pending will require additional crucial reforms – in areas ranging from competition law, to fisheries management, and financial markets.
The President’s leadership in advancing these reforms will be critical, and it is encouraging to see that a number of important steps have already been taken in this respect.
In an attempt to accelerate legislative reforms, President Alvarado’s government has promoted the creation of a Special Commission for OECD Affairs within the Legislative Assembly. Certain OECD-related bills will be allocated to this Commission, in an effort to expedite their adoption.
Moreover, President Alvarado took office at a time when the delicate fiscal situation of the country called for decisive action. In fact, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Finance has estimated that without much-needed reforms, public debt will increase from 54% of GDP in 2018, to 60% in 2020 and 71% by 2022. As a result, a reform package tackling both the reduction of expenditure and the increase of tax revenues is being promoted. The OECD has been working closely with President Alvarado’s Administration in this area and we hope that the Law on the Strengthening of Public Finances, currently under constitutional review, will be adopted soon.
Last but not least, the President is also promoting a very strong social agenda to which the OECD can actively contribute. Indeed, he is taking advantage of his visit to the OECD today to hold a number of substantive technical discussions in two of his areas of focus: education and employment.
Before I hand over the floor to you, let me reiterate that the OECD stands ready to continue supporting Costa Rica on its ambitious reform path and to help you advance your priorities, delivering better lives for all Costa Ricans.
We look forward to the conclusion of the accession process, and we very much hope to welcome Costa Rica as an OECD Member under your leadership.