“Bridging Divides – From Diagnosis to Action”: A Conversation with OECD Secretary-General
Remarks by Angel Gurría
Paris, Wednesday 11 October 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Parliamentarians, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the annual October meeting of the OECD Global Parliamentary Network.
Let me begin by thanking our network partner, Women Political Leaders, and those of you who were able to join us from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which I addressed yesterday in Strasbourg.
Divides are becoming ever more present
Our focus on “bridging divides” is quite intentional. We have already discussed this issue with our Ministers and partners at the OECD Week, but the perspective of legislators remains essential. Divides are becoming ever more present in societies and in the lives of the people you serve.
There is both a growing perception, as well as increasing evidence, that the benefits of global economic liberalisation are being reaped mainly by a privileged minority. We are all well aware of the worrying figures. The average income of the richest 10% of the population is now around 10 times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD.
Inequality is even more pronounced in terms of wealth: At the last count, the top 1% wealthiest households in OECD countries owned 18% of total household wealth, compared to only 3% owned by the bottom 40%. Worst of all, inequalities are becoming increasingly entrenched and inherited.
These growing inequalities have precipitated declining faith in government. In fact, public trust in the institutions of government slumped to 42% in OECD countries in 2016 .
Towards a more inclusive globalisation
We need to rebuild this trust. And this is quite a challenge. But our objectives are clear: we need to make globalisation work for all; we need to level the playing field. We must move away from the mantra of growing the pie first and redistributing it later, we should aspire to achieving growth that is equitable, people-centred and focused on multi-dimensional well-being. We call this “inclusive growth”.
In this vein, since 2012, the OECD’s Inclusive Growth and our New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) Initiatives have been mainstreaming inclusive growth into our analysis and policy recommendations to ensure that people’s well-being is placed at the centre of policymaking.
For example, our 2016 study, ‘the Productivity-Inclusiveness Nexus’ is filling evidence gaps on the root causes behind declining productivity growth and rising inequality. We have also launched a new horizontal project on harnessing digitalisation for inclusive growth and are supporting the implementation of the G20 Blueprint on Innovative Growth adopted in Hangzhou, China.
We must ensure that our inclusive growth efforts permeate every aspect of our work. We should take full advantage of the opportunities of globalisation and focus on empowering SMEs; eliminating digital divides which allow some people to advance and others to stay behind; ensure that international trade and investment flows benefit people and societies and not only the large corporations; and, of course, insist that multinational companies must pay their fair share of taxes – our work on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) is helping us meet this challenge.
But to achieve all this, we need tomust constantly improve and deepen multilateral co-operation with rules that are stronger, fairer, and more inclusive.
Improving and intensifying multilateral co-operation
We need to strengthen our international standards, make them more effective, both in levelling the global playing field and improving inclusiveness. In particular, we need greater international collaboration on taxation, responsible business conduct, competition among transnational corporations, fighting corruption, and fighting climate change.
At the G7 and the G20, the OECD helps to strengthen international regulatory co-operation, while OECD standards and instruments ensure that all relevant actors play by the same rules.
We also need to improve the role of international organisations and multilateral co-operation to make them more effective and more inclusive. For example,we are co-operating with the European Commission on a number of projects with Greece in the areas of education, anti-corruption and competition; we regularly work with the FAO on our joint Agricultural Outlooks; we work closely with the WTO to regularly update the joint OECD-WTO Trade in Value Added (TiVA) Database; and of course we hold our annual debates with the Council of Europe.
And the OECD is taking this message of inclusive globalisation and new approaches to all its Members and Partners, boosting our co-operation with emerging and developing economies; increasing our presence and support in the G20, G7, APEC, the Pacific Alliance and others, with whom we are sharing our inclusive growth narrative and our best practices.
The important role of Parliaments
Parliaments are essential to help bridging divides. Your role is crucial in empowering our people, our nations, to help them make the most of globalisation. This can be done by promoting inclusive growth legislation and policy packages that invest in a numerous areas, such as: early childhood education; lifelong learning; skills development; re-designing tax systems to reduce inequalities; supporting SMEs; promoting the integration of migrants; and enhancing technology diffusion, to name but a few.
In fact, in our next Global Parliamentary Network session today we will be launching the Digital Economy Outlook which focuses on harnessing successfully the digital transformation of our economies and societies. And it is essential that you meet with colleagues to discuss these challenges and exchange best practices.
Over the next two days we will also be discussing issues from migrant integration case studies, developing action plans for inclusive ageing, to understanding complex problems based on constituent needs and, together, creating solutions in a workshop format with our Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI). And at tomorrow’s meeting we will be exploring ways to further boost transparency and integrity in parliaments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In a very interesting recent article, the American political scientist Robert Keohane pointed to one of the key paradoxes of our time, arguing how “even as communications technology has connected people as never before, different social classes have drifted further apart, becoming almost alien to one another.”
These divides are putting many of our systems and institutions at risk. We must bridge them through better economic and social policies, focusing more on a fairer redistribution of opportunities and wealth, on the empowerment of the many through better skills and public services. This is what we are trying to do at the OECD every day, and I very much hope that you join us in this quest. Thank you.