Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General,
2020 Ministerial Council Meeting, 28 October, 12:00-12:45
President Sánchez, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to OECD’s Ministerial Council Meeting of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has generated the worst health, economic and social crisis in our lifetime. No country, no economy, no society has been spared. And no country, no economy, no society can face it alone.
Over 1.1 million people have lost their lives and more than 42 million infections have been recorded so far. This year will witness the worst recession since World War II, with a projected fall in global GDP by 4.5%. Many economies will not recover their 2019 output levels until 2022 at the earliest. The crisis has already wiped out all the jobs created since the global financial crisis. And there are ominous signs of a second wave of the virus.
While the pandemic has been a major accelerator of several trends and transformations, including digitalisation, it has also highlighted pre-existing structural weaknesses: inequalities are rising, and vulnerable people and countries are being hit worst. Meanwhile, the imperative to fight climate change and to preserve biodiversity is still there. It is not waiting for the pandemic to end. It remains our single, most important, intergenerational responsibility.
We are gathered here today to discuss how we can work together to achieve a strong, resilient, green and inclusive recovery. This requires decisive and concerted action in four directions:
First, fighting and containing the virus should remain our top short-term priority. Choosing between lives and livelihoods is a false dilemma. Until we discover a vaccine and we make it widely accessible and affordable, we must continue to adopt all necessary measures and adopt and adapt all the necessary technologies to protect public health. To test, track, trace and isolate.
Second, besides Central Banks, Governments must continue strengthening confidence and using their fiscal firepower to keep economies going, support companies, workers and protect the most vulnerable. And not to withdraw such support too soon.
Third, we need strong multilateral action to match the level of ambition of national responses. International co-operation will be key to develop and distribute vaccines at large; to support poorer countries and regions (more ODA, Debt Relief; Export Credits, Cost of Remittances; ensure net positive flows of resources); to foster resilience in global value chains, and to find a consensus-based solution to the tax challenges of digitalisation by mid-2021, to match the success we achieved in our automatic exchange of information, on taxes, which has so far identified 84 million bank accounts worth 10 Trillion Euros.
Finally, the OECD encourages its Members and partners to seize the unprecedented opportunity of the recovery to “build back better”. Restoring growth is key, but its quality matters as much. The recovery must be guided by focusing on: People (therefore Inclusive); Planet (therefore Sustainable); and Prosperity (therefore Resilient).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The OECD has stepped up to the challenge.
Our COVID-19 Digital Hub – which we launched when the crisis hit – contains, so far, 160 policy briefs on all areas of our work and has received over 1.3 million unique visitors, mostly policymakers. We organised a number of COVID-19 related, national briefings, either at Leaders or Ministerial level. We launched a deep reflection on how to address the recovery, through three Ministerial Council Roundtables one on the economic outlook, one on employment and social protection, and another on the environment. We are also supporting the G20 and other global fora in developing a collective response to the crisis. And we continue advancing our work on resilience and innovative economic tools and methods, building on the New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) Initiative, launched after the Global Financial Crisis.
OECD’s roots lie in the Marshall Plan. Therefore, the notion of reconstruction; of a forward-looking vision; of people-centered ambition, of a deep-seated sense of mission; of multilateralism, are part of our DNA. As we approach our 60th Anniversary, count on the OECD to support your efforts to design, develop and deliver, better policies for better lives.