OECD Secretary-General

Ministerial Meeting of the Territorial Development Policy Committee: Regions and Cities - Remarks by Angel Gurría


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the Ministerial Meeting of the Territorial Development Policy Committee: “Regions and Cities: Where Policies and People Meet”

Marseille, France, 5 December 2013

(As prepared for delivery)

Distinguished Ministers, Monsieur le President, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you to the Third Ministerial Meeting of the Territorial Development Policy Committee. This body has demonstrated the importance of working with our regions and cities to meet our collective challenges since its inception in 1999.

Let me first express special thanks to the French Government, and in particular to Minister Lebranchu, for hosting and chairing this meeting: mes sincères remerciements Madame la Ministre! I would also like to thank our two Vice Chairs, Vice-Minister Sakai of Japan and Minister Ramírez Marín of Mexico. And I am grateful to our co-host, the Regional Council for Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur, and to President Vauzelle and his team here at the gorgeous Villa Méditerranée. I send also a special salut to our host city, la belle et dynamique Marseille. Merci de nous accueillir.

In these difficult times, our citizens are eager to see economic prosperity back, but they don't want growth at any cost. The crisis had such devastating impacts that it changed the way people see economic progress: they are calling for a more inclusive growth, where dividends are better shared among all citizens. They also want growth that is resilient and sustainable both in economic and environmental terms.

Governments need to rebuild trust and take actions.

As our recent edition of Government at a Glance points out, governments are facing a critical loss of confidence. Without trust in government, no policy will be effective enough to reactivate our economies and leave the crisis behind. National policies can frame the context for recovery, but it is in the regions and cities where policies meet people, or as the saying goes, where the rubber meets the road. 

Flexible and adaptive policy solutions are critical! We cannot assume that the same policies implemented in one region will be effective across the board. In reality, as our latest edition of Regions at a Glance points out, regions and cities are progressing at different speeds on both the economic and the social fronts. We can’t achieve our national goals by staying at 30 000 feet, we need to zoom in on our different cities, regions and rural communities.

How do we invest limited public funds to stimulate growth and job creation? To help workers, young and old, obtain the right skills for those jobs? To promote environmentally friendly commuting to get people from their homes to their jobs? To ensure citizen access to vital public services such as health care and education? As Ministers in charge of regional and urban development in your countries, you are in a unique position to help national and local decision-makers join forces!

We have a busy and ambitious agenda for these two days.

Today, our first session “Investing for Growth” will focus on public investment, because it is potentially one of the most growth-enhancing forms of public spending. Regional and local governments have considerable influence here, as they account for around 72% of public investment. Unfortunately, public investment has recently been the “adjustment variable”, falling by 13% among subnational governments since 2009. 

The OECD Principles for Public Investment Across Levels of Government that underpin this discussion aim to provide a framework to improve public spending outcomes. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to exchange views on how these Principles are being applied – or can be applied - in your countries.

The second session “Building Sustainable Cities of All Sizes” will focus on cities: it’s where the bulk of economic activity takes place and where most of the population lives. Sixty-eight percent of the OECD population live in urban areas, and almost 80% of rural residents actually live close to a city. These percentages deliver a clear message and have far reaching economic, social and environmental consequences. 

It is imperative that we work to ensure that cities get the right support and incentives from national governments: one way to achieve this could be through national urban policy frameworks. I am sure that your discussions with mayors will produce a lot of food for thought in this area.

The next two parallel sessions on “Fitting policies to places” will look at how we can design and implement measures more adapted to the specific needs of our regions and cities. Better governance of our metropolitan areas and stronger rural-urban linkages can help us to get more out of our cities and improve the quality of life in both urban and nearby rural locations. Which practical tools can national governments use to make this happen? Your discussions will help the OECD develop more practical guidance and data to support your work in these areas. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I look forward to our discussion. The OECD is committed to helping your countries work with cities and regions to achieve our collective mission of better policies for better lives. Minister Lebranchu, let me express my gratitude again for all your work and dedication as well as that of your team leading up to this event.

Thank you.