Statement by Mr. Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
The world economy is going through difficult times. The global crisis has bequeathed several countries a legacy of high unemployment, unsound public finances and lower potential output. The recovery is under way, but it is unbalanced across countries and regions. The emerging-market economies are growing robustly in contrast with a more moderate, albeit strengthening, pace of expansion in most mature economies. Global payment imbalances are set to remain wide in the near term. Policymakers, academics and practitioners are also being challenged, because the crisis has called into question several tenets of mainstream economic thinking. It has been recognised by several analysts that the global crisis was not only a financial and economic crisis, but also a crisis for economics.
It is therefore time to look ahead and ponder the challenges we will be facing in the years to come. This is what this conference is about. It looks at a number of complex policy issues and calls for creative, forward-looking ways of addressing them.
The policy issues highlighted in the conference programme – financial development, social policies, innovation, regulation – are relevant to all countries, albeit at varying degrees, depending of their level of development. The key question is: how to design appropriate policies to strengthen growth and make it inclusive and sustainable over time?
The conference puts structural reform at the core of the debate. By structural reforms I mean a variety of policy initiatives – in product, labour and financial markets, and in tax and benefit system, among others – to enhance the productive capacity of our economies. Structural reforms can do much to unleash opportunities for investment and to allow countries to tap new sources of growth. They can also address issues of inclusiveness and social cohesion, ensuring that the benefits of sustained growth are shared equitably.
Exploiting synergies among policy domains is also essential in this context. For example, innovation goes beyond R&D and calls for investment in human resources and appropriate competition policies to encourage entrepreneurship. Innovation is also a key pillar of green growth, which is about greening old activities by harnessing knowledge and new technologies that can also create jobs and promote welfare in an environmentally sustainable manner. Pro-growth policies that remove impediments to job creation would contribute at the same time to fiscal consolidation by creating revenue for the budget. A strengthening of social protection would affect people’s saving decisions and the balance of growth between domestic and external sources.
I am very pleased to co-host this conference with the World Bank this year, because 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the OECD. The policy challenges that will be discussed today and tomorrow offer a window of opportunity to define how the OECD may continue to provide the best policy advice for members and partner countries.
I wish you a very productive conference and welcome you all to the OECD.
24 March 2011