University of São Paulo webinar, 6 May 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 6 May 2021

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to join you today, to launch a co-operation programme between the OECD and the University of São Paulo.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our societies and economies, claiming over three million lives to date and reversing almost all of the economic progress made since the 2008 crisis. Fortunately, global economic prospects are now improving. Our most recent projections suggest global growth will be 5.6% this year. World output should return to pre-crisis levels by mid-2021. This projection crucially depends on the race between the vaccination rate and the spread of emerging variants of the virus.

The recovery will be uneven across the globe and many countries may need more time to return to pre-crisis levels. Governments must continue to provide fiscal support, whilst deploying vaccines.

Brazil was recovering from a long recession in 2015-2016, when the COVID-19 outbreak hit, bringing the economy back into another, even deeper recession in 2020.

However, the government’s swift reaction has made a difference, and its comprehensive measures, including the social benefit programme Auxilio Emergencial, have provided the much-needed support for millions of vulnerable households. Without these measures, the economic contraction in 2020 would have been much worse and the recovery in 2021 much slower than our projected 3.7% GDP growth.

The recovery is an opportunity to implement policies to achieve stronger, more equitable and more sustainable growth. Let me outline some key areas.

First, increasing the effectiveness of social benefits can strengthen the first line of defence against shocks. The well-targeted conditional cash transfer system implemented by Brazil during the pandemic could be converted into a true social safety net. Structural policies can also help direct investment and technological change to re-direct Brazil’s economy and serve its environmental objectives, building a more resilient and sustainable society.

Second, by supporting skill upgrading - helping workers switch jobs, entrepreneurs launch innovative ventures, and winding-down unproductive and polluting activities - Brazil can facilitate worker mobility into new, better-paying jobs and strengthen productivity. In the longer term, enhancing outcomes and equity in education and professional training lowers inequality and poverty.

And thirdly, by linking the recovery measures to sustainability. While our most urgent task is to vaccinate people quickly and guard against new outbreaks, as we emerge from COVID-19, our most important intergenerational responsibility is to protect the planet. With 60% of the Amazon forest within its borders and home to the world’s largest biodiversity reserve, Brazil can lead the reshaping and the rebuilding of our global economy, in a greener, more resilient and more inclusive way. At the OECD, we have started a new International Programme for Action on Climate (IPAC) to support countries to implement the goals of the Paris Agreement, through a set of climate-related indicators, tailored recommendations and best practices. Brazil is welcome to join the programme.

Since becoming OECD Secretary-General in 2006, I have actively promoted building bridges with Brazil and other key emerging markets – China, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Through our “enhanced engagement” initiative, in 2007, these countries have been acquainted with OECD standards and good practices and their perspectives have been included in OECD policy discussions.

Brazil has, by far, made the most of this partnership, and has enriched our Organisation’s work by participating in OECD activities. Today, Brazil participates in 39 OECD bodies, and has adhered to 99 OECD legal instruments – that’s over one-third of all OECD Acquis.

Brazil has also worked across policy areas to move closer to OECD standards, including in some highly challenging matters such as foreign investment regime and transfer pricing rules. Recently, the OECD-Brazil project, launched in October last year, is helping to align Brazil’s policies to the OECD environmental Acquis. Crucially, Brazil has taken the important step of applying for OECD membership.

Dear Friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought so much pain, hardship and uncertainty, but it has also brought the possibility of a new beginning. It is time to build back better, or as I prefer to say, build “forward” better. For that, we must work together. Pooling our forces and know-how is the only way to ensure a truly resilient and sustainable recovery.

Our partnership with the University of São Paulo will greatly contribute to this endeavour. So count on the OECD to work with you, and for you, to build a fairer, more inclusive and more resilient post-COVID-19 Brazil.

Thank you.


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