Opening remarks by Angel Gurría
24 October 2019 - Bogota, Colombia
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Vice President Ramirez, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to address for the first time this High-Level Commission on OECD Affairs. I would like to thank Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez for her leadership in this important endeavour.
As you are aware, on 25 May 2018, the OECD Council invited Colombia to become the 37th Member of the Organisation. Once the accession procedures have been completed, Colombia will be the third Latin American country to join the OECD, alongside Mexico and Chile.
Both the Secretariat and the Member countries are very proud to welcome Colombia so that it can begin to make the most of its OECD membership. We look forward to starting the post-accession process.
It should be acknowledged that Colombia is making steady progress in the accession process. The country has already begun the process of establishing its Permanent Delegation to the OECD, including the appointment of Jaime Castro as Permanent Representative and Gloria Alonso as his deputy, with whom we have already had the pleasure of working in her capacity as Director of the National Planning Department. The establishment of the delegation will undoubtedly contribute to the full integration of the country into the work of the Organisation, as well as to the alignment of the OECD’s work with Colombian priorities.
In addition, the accession process has served as a catalyst for Colombia to undertake a series of reforms to align its legislation, policies and practices with the best international standards, in response to requests and recommendations by OECD committees. Beyond the purely technical aspects, these reforms underpin national public policy priorities, such as the reform of the justice system, policies to reduce informality in the labour market, and the improvement of state regulatory frameworks, such as public procurement mechanisms.
With its sights set on these and other priorities, Colombia has made considerable progress in many aspects of well-being, such as reducing poverty, increasing life expectancy and increasing educational coverage. The middle class has also increased in size, from 12% of the population in 2000 to 31% in 2018.
However, the country still needs to bridge fundamental gaps in terms of institutional, productivity and social issues and which are related to the "development traps" referred to in our Latin American Economic Outlook 2019 study.
Inequality in Colombia, as measured by the Gini index, is over 50%, above the LAC average of 46%. Around 27% of Colombians still live in poverty. Labour productivity has remained low over the past decade, and now stands at only one third of the average for the OECD. Labour informality is very high, exceeding half of the labour force, despite the decline registered in recent years. In addition, the geographic location and socioeconomic status of citizens continue to significantly condition access to public services and social mobility.
The National Development Plan "Pacto por Colombia, Pacto por la Equidad" can be an effective instrument in addressing these challenges. It will be very important to make progress in its three lines of action: strengthening legality and institutions; driving entrepreneurship and productivity; and improving equity, in order to promote more inclusive and sustainable development.
Various OECD teams, working under the leadership of the Development Centre, worked on the design and content of the fundamentals of this Plan, and we are now ready to support its implementation.
In concrete terms, the OECD could support Colombia through projects such as labour formalisation, the use of welfare measures as public policy instruments, the development of territorial productivity and the construction of a more efficient and equitable tax system. These are areas in which inter-ministerial action is required, so the role of the National Planning Department becomes essential.
The process of post-accession to the Organisation involves compliance with a number of outstanding tasks for various OECD committees. In particular, Colombia must formally follow up on the commitments undertaken as part of the Accession Agreement in seven technical committees (environment, chemicals, public governance, regulatory policy, employment, trade and fisheries), and demonstrate progress in these areas.
To this end, the Secretariat has prepared a document outlining the timetable and priorities for the reports to be made to each committee. The Secretariat will naturally continue to accompany Colombia throughout this period, as it did during the accession process.
The Organisation's Member countries attach great importance to the post-accession process. That is why Colombia must prepare to devote the necessary time and resources to successfully completing this process. The role of the Inter-ministerial Commission in the effective implementation of the process will be vital, as will be the role of the Director of Planning, who, as point of contact, is required to present Colombia's progress in each area to the OECD Council on a yearly basis.
Beyond the specific requirements of the post-accession framework, we are also looking forward to collaborating with Colombia to support its agenda on Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development.
Allow me to add that while each country chooses the best way to organise its interaction with the Organisation, close oversight from centre of government and co-ordination of the various Ministries involved within an integrated and comprehensive framework invariably yield excellent results for working effectively and efficiently with the OECD.
Finally, the creation of specialised working groups comprising experts and the organisation of regular meetings between the Colombian delegates to the various committees in order to exchange feedback and generate synergies, will optimise the work with the OECD.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Colombian authorities, and especially Vice-President Ramirez, for their important efforts to advance, and conclude with success, the accession process of Colombia. The country is now on the brink of completing its formal process of accession to the Organisation. In practice, it is already part of the family. The Secretariat, the Council and the entire Organisation are ready to receive you and are ready for Colombia to make the move from sitting alongside the European Union as an observer to taking its place between Chile and Korea in order to make the most of its membership. Continue to count on the support of the OECD. Thank you very much.