Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
Thursday 14 February 2019 - OECD, Paris
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Parliamentarians, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this year’s first meeting of the Global Parliamentary Network (GPN). Let me thank our network partners: the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Women Political Leaders Global Forum for their support.
We are here to share ideas and solutions for some of the most fundamental needs and rights of our citizens, the citizens that you, the lawmakers, serve and represent. Challenges like Housing; Energy; Rights in the digital age; Trust; and, the Integrity of elections, of governments, of institutions, will be on the agenda. How timely. How urgent. How pertinent.
The global recovery is losing steam. Growth forecasts this year have been revised down for most of the world’s major economies. Global GDP is now expected to expand by 3.5% in 2019, (compared to our initial forecast of 3.7%) and remain at 3.5% in 2020.
In many countries, unemployment is at record lows and labour shortages are beginning to emerge. However, trade growth and investment have been slackening on the back of tariff hikes and trade tensions are already harming global growth prospects. Higher interest rates and an appreciating US dollar have resulted in an outflow of capital from emerging economies and are weakening their currencies. Monetary and fiscal stimulus is being withdrawn progressively in the OECD area.
Nothing would worsen this uncertain outlook more than a full-fledged trade tariffs escalade. Our latest Interim Outlook (Nov. 2018) estimates that by 2021, world GDP could be hit by 0.5%, by an estimated 0.8% in the US and by 1% in China. Greater uncertainty would add to these negative effects and result in weaker investment around the world.
The fragile recovery is further compounded by high, and in some cases growing, inequalities.
We have talked about this before. The economic systems that we have created in many of our countries are leaving many behind. It’s time to recognise that something is not working when the richest 10% of the OECD population now earn almost 10 times more than the poorest 10%, up from 7 times in the 80s; when the world’s richest 1% accumulate half of the world’s wealth.
We also see widening well-being gaps between the higher-skilled mobile part of the population, and a larger number of less mobile, often less-skilled people in many advanced economies. This rising inequality is a defining feature of our time.
The OECD’s Broken Social Elevator? Report calculates that, at current levels of social mobility, it would take a child born into a low-income family between 4 and 5 generations – or up to 150 years – to reach the average level of income.
And all of this is happening while digital technologies and artificial intelligence, as beneficial and promising as they are, bring disruption and labour uncertainty. We estimate that 9% of jobs in the OECD are at high risk of being automated, while for an additional 25% of jobs , automation will radically change the tasks that need to be performed.
The stakes are high. The risks are evident. We cannot get it wrong. It is time to double our efforts to confront these challenges with leadership, resolution and new economics. We need a new economic narrative, a new economic vision, a new economic policy that puts the people, the majorities, the vulnerable, at the centre.
We need to produce a new type of growth that is more inclusive and more sustainable. We must focus more on well-being and not only on GDP growth.
We need another kind of globalisation. One that levels the playing field and generates opportunities for the bottom 40, 50, 60%. That’s what we are trying to do at the OECD and that’s what we want to do with you. We should focus more and more on better international co-operation to address problems such as a race to the bottom in standards, market-distorting behaviour, aggressive tax avoidance and irresponsible business conduct.
The provision of adequate income support is vital, but it is not enough. What is needed is an empowering state. Social protection systems must become social enabling systems. Among other things, this means focussing on gender inclusion, the integration of migrants and early childhood education, as well as life-long learning. And of course, it remains vital to listen to people's concerns and engage more effectively with citizens.
At the OECD we have been focusing on updating and strengthening our policy advice in order to address many of these challenges together. Let me provide some insights.
Our Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth highlights 3 key principles through which governments can sustain and share more equitably the benefits of economic growth: investing in people and places that have been left behind; supporting business dynamism and inclusive labour markets; and building efficient and responsive governments.
Furthermore, we are a global champion of the movement to go beyond GDP. Traditional metrics often do not necessarily measure areas which are indispensable to society, such as: well-being, how people feel about their lives, who is benefitting from growth, whether growth is environmentally sustainable, what factors contribute to an individual’s or a country’s success.
We now systematically consider inclusiveness and green growth in economic policy recommendations. We also examine whether structural reforms are really reaching those left at the margins of society – for instance, whether household disposable incomes change for the better when growth goes up.
The digital revolution has produced many benefits and unimaginable progress in our education, health, transport, communication and energy systems. It has helped us to integrate our economies and societies, it has globalised opportunities and helped start-ups go global.
Blockchain is becoming a game-changing tool for governments, with potential uses far beyond its current financial applications. Artificial intelligence is also going mainstream. The number of AI investment deals worldwide grew more than sevenfold between 2011 and 2017.
The OECD, however, is also focusing on tackling emerging challenges created by the digital revolution. Our Going Digital project was launched to help policymakers better understand the forces of the digital transformation. In addition, a new OECD report “How’s Life in the Digital Age?”, which is part of our Going Digital project, will be released on 26 February. It focuses on each dimension of the OECD’s well-being framework showing how the digital transformation touches many aspects of people’s lives bringing with it both opportunities and risks for well-being.
In the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI), reinforcing trust and security in cyberspace is an urgent necessity, as recognised by many governments, businesses and the civil society. The OECD is developing a series of overarching principles for AI, to ensure that policymakers strike the correct balance between vital access to the data needed for AI applications and safeguarding the privacy and security rights of all users.
And we are also working hard to address digital taxation issues. In fact, countries and jurisdictions participating in the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) recently pledged to step up efforts to reach a global solution over how to tax multinational enterprises in a rapidly digitalising economy.
Our next Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) in May, which will be chaired by the Slovak Republic and co-chaired by Canada and Korea, will be focusing on ‘Harnessing the Digital Transformation for Sustainable Development.’
And we are helping governments and parliaments to promote more sustainable growth
The OECD is also supporting governments in meeting their climate commitments. This is particularly important at a time when emissions are once again on the rise. Our ground-breaking report to the G20, ‘Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth’ finds that by combining strong climate actions with fiscal and structural reforms – while avoiding climate change impacts – countries can add nearly 5% to average economic output in the G20 by 2050.
Moreover, our recent ‘Financing Climate Futures: Rethinking Infrastructure Initiative’ – launched together with the World Bank and UN Environment – highlights the importance and the potential of ‘greening’ infrastructure investments. It specifically looks at six transformative areas that can help us align financial flows with a low-emission, resilient future. Among others, these include: harnessing innovation; reshaping development finance; and empowering local governments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In order for us to truly move towards sustainable, inclusive economies and societies we must first work to bring people’s trust back. Without trust it will be impossible to carry out reforms no matter how forward-looking and innovative they are. The very legitimacy of governments, institutions and of international organisations rests on the trust that we earn from citizens.
Let us be your partner as you champion the well-being of your constituents. Together, at this crucial time, we can multiply one another’s efforts and bring to bear better policies, for better lives.