Dear President Duque, Vice President Ramírez, Colombian friends,
It is a pleasure to be with you, albeit virtually, to commemorate Colombia's first anniversary as an OECD member. Colombia's membership means a lot to me, as I had the opportunity to promote and accompany the accession process from the outset; I have been a driving force behind, and a witness to, this fruitful relationship, which has been developed over many years.
Mr. President, it is an immense honour and a genuine privilege to receive from your hands the Grand Cross of the Order of Boyacá, one of the highest decorations awarded by the Colombian government. I will wear it with pride. I will always endeavour to be a worthy recipient.
Colombia is an exemplary country on reform
The effort made by Colombia to join the OECD was exemplary, with significant reforms undertaken during the accession process to bring its legislation, policies, and practices in line with OECD standards. Reforms to improve economic competitiveness, government efficiency, and the well-being of the population. Reforms in areas such as the labour market, the justice system, corporate governance of public enterprises, public procurement, integrity and anti-corruption, international trade, as well as the strengthening of competition policies and the establishment of a national policy on industrial chemicals and waste management.
At the OECD, the aim of having "better policies" is to give citizens "better lives". In this respect, the accession process served as a catalyst for Colombia to pursue reforms that are already improving the well-being of its citizens, such as reducing informality, even if it remains relatively high, and improving the quality and impact of education and training as well as the long-term sustainability of the health system.
It is important to emphasise, however, that the hard work does not end with membership. Colombia still has a number of challenges ahead, including the post-accession process during which we will continue to provide support by formally following up on commitments made within committees on environment, chemicals, public governance, regulatory policy, employment, trade, and fisheries. And we will continue to develop our collaboration.
This collaboration has also benefited the OECD. Colombia's membership has given greater insight into our understanding of Latin America, and the complexity and enormous potential of emerging economies. Together with Mexico and Chile, Colombia has played an important role in disseminating OECD best practices and standards. It has paved the way for the accession of neighbouring countries such as Costa Rica (which is on the threshold of becoming a Member of the Organisation), and it has certainly encouraged the applications for membership we received from Argentina, Brazil and Peru.
To fight Covid-19, Colombia has strengthened its ties with the OECD
Even in the difficult context of Covid-19, Colombia has been a model to uphold. The country has adopted an innovative and proactive approach to dealing with the pandemic and the ensuing economic and social crisis. It has not been easy for any country, particularly in Latin America. But Colombia has extended support to the most vulnerable members of its population through the Solidarity Income programme, thus also promoting financial inclusion; it has maintained strong support for large and small businesses through the National Guarantee Fund; and has embarked on a massive regulatory process aimed at granting legal status and guarantees to 2 million Venezuelan migrants in Colombia. To sustain these efforts, it is necessary this year to continue to pursue the important fiscal reform project that will be essential in helping to increase revenue, reduce debt and strengthen social protection.
We are very proud that Colombia has looked to the OECD as a partner in designing a resilient, sustainable and inclusive recovery strategy to respond to this unprecedented global crisis. We will be working together to develop and implement integrated policy solutions to help drive recovery, on issues of high importance to the country such as social protection and labour formalisation; competition and regulation; and productivity and sustainability.
One year ago today, under the leadership of President Iván Duque, Colombia became the 37th OECD country and the third largest Latin American economy.
The close relationship that the OECD and Colombia have forged over the past decade is testimony to shared values and principles and a firm conviction that the only way to face challenges is through multilateral co-operation.
We are proud to have Colombia as a Member of this Organisation, and I hope that this close and fruitful relationship will continue to blossom and grow stronger in the years to come.