Delphi Economic Forum: ‘Tackling COVID-19 and Building Forward Better’, 14 May 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Transcript of video message
Paris, 14 May 2021

Dear Friends,

It is my pleasure to address this year’s Delphi Economic Forum. We come together at a particularly important juncture.

The COVID-19 crisis has placed unprecedented pressure on our health systems and economies. Most countries are still facing serious challenges. Nonetheless, the global economic outlook has improved in recent months. Our latest analysis projects global GDP to grow 5.6% for 2021 and 4% in 2022. However, uncertainty remains very high, and the pace of the recovery still depends on the speed of vaccination and the management of the health crisis.
If governments accelerate the rollout of vaccines worldwide, global activity could return to where we thought it would have been without a pandemic by late 2021. But if vaccination is slow and the virus remains in high circulation, global GDP could be nearly 2% below our central projection by late 2022.

The OECD has supported member and partner countries throughout this crisis. We have helped governments to pool evidence and develop harmonised responses on issues such as test and trace, job retention schemes, and vaccines. Amongst others, our Digital Hub on Tackling the Coronavirus provides a single entry point to our analysis. To date, we have published 205 policy briefs and statements in virtually all the areas of our policy work, and this number continues to grow. Moreover, the Hub has received over 2.8 million visitors.

We will continue to provide policy analysis and advice as the global economic outlook improves. This starts by acknowledging that, even before the pandemic, not all was well. Our past growth left many people behind. Many of our economies have been struggling for more than a decade with slow productivity growth, declining business dynamism, and very unequal opportunities. Growth was also unsustainable from an environmental perspective.

Spending measures designed to help the economic recovery have so far not been sufficient to address these issues. For example, the recently launched OECD Green Recovery Database shows that spending tagged as environmentally positive accounts for only around 17% of recovery spending. This implies that total stimulus packages still lean heavily towards traditional investments, rather than the transformational low-carbon investments required. Our most important intergenerational responsibility is to preserve and protectthe planet!

We should see the recovery as an opportunity to set our policies right, to achieve growth that is stronger, equitable and more resilient. And for this, governments have to act now and be bold.

In our recently published Going for Growth report we have identified top policy priorities for shaping a resilient, inclusive and green recovery – to “build back better”, or as Iprefer to say , to “build forward better”. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy, but the policy advice set out in this report builds on three overarching themes:

First, building resilience and sustainability. This means improving the coverage of the healthcare and social systems and pricing harmful practices that yield carbon emissions and biodiversity losses.

Second, removing impediments to reallocation in sectors no longer affected by restrictions in order to ‘oil the wheels’ of economic change. This means helping workers to switch jobs, entrepreneurs to launch innovative ventures, and winding-down unproductive and polluting activities.

And third, supporting people in those transitions when they need to upskill to find a new job, when they look after their family and cannot work, or when they fall sick. Various “green” sectors and activities offer significant prospects for job creation, including renewable energy, ecosystem restoration, and organic agriculture.

Dear friends,

As we forge ahead and tackle the crisis together, the importance of international co-operation cannot be overstated. Fora such as the Delphi Economic Forum are now essential to share best practices and forge new global alliances.
The OECD remains committed to working with governments, the international community and all key stakeholders to build a recovery that is strong, resilient, green and inclusive. Let’s build forward better, together.

Thank you.


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