Remarks by Angel Gurría,
Brasília, 3 November 2015
(As prepared for delivery)
Excellencies, Ministers, Senators, Deputies, Senhoras e Senhores,
It is a great honour to be at the beautiful Palace of Itamaraty to launch the Brazil-OECD Programme of Work. At a critical juncture in Brazil’s social, economic and political development, this programme opens an important new chapter in our bilateral relationship, laying out the blueprint for our enhanced cooperation going forward.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to welcome both Minister Mauro Vieira and Minister Joaquim Levy to the OECD’s annual Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris. On that occasion, we signed a bilateral Co-operation Agreement, an important stepping stone to today’s landmark launch. And, I want to pay tribute to both Ministers – and to officials all across government – for their hard work in making this a reality.
Of course, this Programme builds on more than 20 years of OECD-Brazil co-operation. And, clearly, much has changed over those two decades, in both the OECD and in Brazil. The OECD has transformed itself into, as President Bachelet of Chile put it, the “club of best practices”. We are fast-becoming the go-to global institution for policy advice to promote inclusive growth and sustainable development, putting people’s well-being at the heart of our work.
This transformation is exemplified by the expansion of our membership to more emerging economies. Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia are the most recent additions to the family. Colombia and Latvia will join soon, and negotiations are under way with Costa Rica and Lithuania. We hope that Brazil may soon consider responding to the standing invitation (since 2007) from OECD members to start a conversation on eventual membership. For now, we continue to work closely with Brazil and our other Key Partners: China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, as well as with a few countries with whom we have a special country programme, including Peru, which has already expressed its interest in joining the OECD.
There has also seen a transformation right here in Brazil! A period of strong growth and stability has seen 25 million people lifted out of poverty in only a decade. Growth remained resilient even in the face of the global financial crisis. Bucking the trends in most OECD countries, inequality has been coming down, albeit from high levels, as the incomes of the poorest 10% have increased at three times the rate of the richest 10% since 2003. The pace of deforestation is only a quarter of its level in the mid-2000s. In many ways, Brazil had become a beacon for other emerging economies to follow, showing that stronger growth can also be fairer and greener.
More recently, however, progress has slowed. In the face of a less benign external environment, Brazil is in recession. Those reforms that seemed easy to postpone when a booming China and an accommodative US Fed underpinned growth are now more necessary than ever to get the Brazilian economy pointing back in the right direction.
The Brazilian government, and Minister Levy in particular, have. But, in the medium term, Brazil also needs to “go structural”! This means a renewed and comprehensive policy agenda, encompassing economic, social, environmental, administrative and institutional reforms.
Tomorrow, Minister Levy and I will jointly present the OECD’s 2015 Economic Survey of Brazil which recommends policy measures on trade, education, health, tax and public sector administration, among others.
Brazil also needs to continue its progress in “going social”. Programmes such as Bolsa Familia have been effective in ensuring a minimum level of income for millions of Brazilians. Going forward, Brazil needs to pursue efforts to reduce labour market informality, improve its universal public healthcare, strengthen its social protection system, and promote financial and digital inclusion.
Given that Brazil is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, let me stress also the importance of “going green”, since I will also present tomorrow with Ministers Teixeira and Levy the first Environmental Policy Review of Brazil, which provides recommendations on promoting sustainable management of natural resources and its biodiversity.
At the same time, the Brazilian Government is “going institutional”, committed to an ambitious agenda to build trust in public institutions by taking decisive anti-corruption measures, placing citizens at the centre of government actions, reforming the civil service, improving public governance, and making public service delivery more effective and transparent across all levels of government. Clearly, however, much more remains to be done, and the OECD stands ready to help. This afternoon, for example, I will present a report that compares and highlights the role that Supreme Audit Institutions play in ten different countries in promoting good governance. Brazil is one of them.
As the ‘club of best practices’, the OECD is well-placed to lend a hand, so today’s Programme of Work couldn’t come at a better time. Developed jointly with the Brazilian authorities, the Programme we are launching today can support Brazil’s progress on multiple fronts. So, let me therefore recognise and express my appreciation for the joint efforts of Itamaraty and the Ministry of Finance, which convened agencies across the Brazilian government multiple times, and hosted a consultative Roundtable with OECD experts last month. Let me share with you some of the highlights of such Programme of Work:
We are already taking the first steps towards implementation! Earlier today, we signed a new multi-year agreement with Aroldo Cedraz, Minister for, the Tribunal de Contas da União (TCU) that will further strengthen our long-standing collaboration. And, shortly, I will sign an agreement with Vicente Andreu, President of the National Water Agency (ANA) that will see us cooperating closely on the governance of water resources in Brazil.
Among other activities, the Programme includes an innovation policy review to help Brazil reflect and build on the OECD Innovation Strategy, which gathers lessons from more than 37 countries; as well as an expenditure review with a focus on health, which accounts for almost 10% of public spending, while aiming to support the provision of higher quality services to the Brazilian population as a whole.
One of the most relevant and promising features of the Programme will come from greater participation of Brazil in OECD bodies. It is in the policy discussions that take place in our more than 250 committees where Brazil can learn from the experiences of OECD member and partner countries; in turn, OECD countries will benefit from discussing Brazil’s experience in important policy domains including agriculture, investment, taxation, environment, corporate governance, and science and technology.
We welcome, for example, the willingness of Brazil to increase its level of participation in our committees on competition and tax policies. This morning, in fact, I opened a joint seminar with the Brazilian Competition Authority (CADE) on how to tackle and prevent a practice that severely affects the budget of many countries: bid rigging and collusion in public procurement tenders. On the tax front, Brazil is an important partner in OECD efforts to address another harmful practice, tax base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), and in detonating automatic exchange of information (AEOI).
Finally, joining the “club of best practices” doesn’t just mean adopting them; it means shaping them too! The Programme of Work will see Brazil’s adoption of international standards in a number of areas. And, as in the case of the BEPS Declaration and the G20/OECD Principles on Corporate Governance, we strongly support Brazil’s participation in the process of developing these standards. Indeed, we continue to greatly appreciate our close partnership with Brazil through the G20 in the elaboration of such international standards.
Minister Vieira, Minister Levy, Senhoras e Senhores,
Through this Programme of Work, the OECD puts its expertise at Brazil’s disposal. You can count on our full support in tackling complex policy challenges and advancing the ambitious reform agenda needed for the next stage of Brazil’s transformation. We therefore look forward to a deeper engagement between the OECD and Brazil as we pursue our shared goal of better policies for better lives.