Roundtable "Fit for the Future", 9 July 2021


Mathias Cormann,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 6 July 2021
Transcript of Video Message (or play the video)

Dear Ministers, Colleagues,

I am delighted to open this virtual roundtable on the topic of Fit for the future: learning from the COVID-19 crisis to reinforce democratic governance and to launch the OECD's Government at a Glance 2021.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, governments have been confronted by extraordinary and unprecedented challenges.

Their quick responses to the pandemic have been crucial in supporting businesses and households, lives and livelihoods at an unprecedented scale and speed.

Governments massively ramped up spending on healthcare, and provided income support to households and businesses heavily impacted financially by the pandemic.

We currently estimate that the support provided by governments through increased spending and foregone taxes adds up to more than 16% of the GDP of OECD countries. Then there was another 10% of the GDP of OECD countries in the form of other support measures such as loans for businesses.

This crisis has also exposed several governance shortcomings, even threats to democracies in long-established democracies.

Despite a boost of public trust in government sparked by the pandemic, only 51% of people in OECD countries trusted their government in 2020.

While the explanation for this is no doubt complex, there are some factors, which stand out.

Reinforcing democracy should be one of our highest priorities.

Let me outline three elements, which we believe are critically important as part of this agenda:

First, we must tackle misinformation - which fuels distrust in democratic institutions - including through regulatory tools and effective public communication. Before 2020, only 41% of OECD countries had policies or frameworks to guide their responses to mis- and dis-information . We need to ramp up these mechanisms.

Second, Governments must seek to enhance equality of opportunity, social mobility and diversity. All people should have the same opportunity to participate and benefit from the post pandemic recovery and the digital transformation of our economies for example. It is crucial that we work towards the representation of all citizens in public life, and better workforce and policy participation; including and in particular for young people, women and disadvantaged groups.

Third, we must strengthen our capacity to effectively tackle the global challenges of our time – whether its ambitiously and effectively responding to climate change or seizing the opportunities and better managing the risks associated with the digital transformation of our economies.

In 2018, only 17 of 34 OECD countries had a specific government institution tasked with identifying novel, unforeseen or complex crises.

At the global level, the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of international cooperation at a time of crisis, despite successes in some settings.

The OECD is working hard to help countries build on these three challenges simultaneously.

For instance, today we are also launching the seventh edition of the OECD Government at a Glance report.

The report presents the most up-to-date internationally comparable data on public sector’s performance in OECD countries. It reveals how governments responded to the enormous challenge of the COVID-19 crisis, and sets a common baseline on how the pandemic has redefined the relationship between the government and its people.

This study also provides key recommendations to build public sector capacities and resilience to future crises – while supporting countries’ efforts to strengthen democratic governance.

Dear friends,

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed our weaknesses in various fields of public policy. But it has also provided us with a unique opportunity to strive for a sustainable and inclusive recovery, a recovery that is fit for the future; and most importantly, a recovery that must be accompanied with a reinforcement of democracy, both at home and on the global stage.

Thank you again for joining us today. I wish you an excellent discussion, and I hope that next year we can meet in person!

Thank you.


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