National Competitiveness Policy: good intentions rosary

Autor: Giovanny Cardona Montoya

Spanish version:

Translator: Andres Fernando Cardona Ramírez


Over 20 years ago, Colombia, like most Latin American nations, renounced the development model inspired by ECLAC and enrolled in the liberalization model derived from the Washington Consensus. This change led to a reduction in state involvement in economic dynamics, enterprise privatization, unilateral trade liberalization and the spread of regional trade agreements (RTAs) with neighbors and nations around the world.

To provide a framework that legitimizes the new political and economic direction the country has been endowed with documents such as the Monitoring Report, also 20 years ago, and a dozen CONPES that have claimed to be the beacon to follow to a safe harbor. But time passes and the balance is not yet satisfactory. Despite being, for decades, one of the most stable nations in the region in macroeconomics, to achieve significant export growth and prove an attractive nation for foreign investment, especially in recent years, developing data-that is not synonymous with growth- indicates that the country is not moving in any direction.

The compass:

In 2006 passed the Conpes 3439 which created the National Competitiveness System. This system established a Vision for the future of the country:

“In 2032 Colombia will be one of the three most competitive countries in Latin America and will have a high level of income per person, equivalent to an upper middle income country, through an export driven economy of goods and services with high added value and innovation, with a business environment that encourages local and foreign investment, fosters regional convergence, better formal employment opportunities, raises the quality of life and substantially reduces poverty levels. ”

But time is handing us the bill for missed tasks. In 2006, the Global Competitiveness Indicator World Economic Forum, which measures 142-nations, our country stood at the 65th place among 125 countries. In 2011, Colombia was ranked 68th and in 2012 at 69. If we compare ourselves with our Latin American neighbors, the scenario is not better: we fell from the 5th to the 8th place.

This indicator shows that our relative position has not improved. Now, to achieve this goal it is necessary to make progress with other indicators related to production and income:

– According to the Privy Council on Competitiveness, between 2006 and 2010, income per person in Colombia has been growing at an average rate of 4.4%. However, the Council believes, if we are to meet the goal of being one upper middle income country by 2032, it should reach growth rates between 6% and 7% per year on average.

– At the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century, Colombia depended heavily on exports of coffee, some oil and other agricultural or agro-industrial exports, mainly. After the discovery of oil in Cusiana and global coffee crisis, Colombia became more dependent on mining. In 2006, Colombian exports with low levels of innovation amounted to 83% of the total, by 2012, this figure reached 90%. Are we back? All signs point to yes.

Is it bad to grow depending almost exclusively mining?

No, not bad. First we can say that a country with sufficient reserves for decades can finance the dynamics of its development projects, even leverage those to generate new industries (manufacturing, services, etc..). But Colombia has not substantially increased its oil reserves. These are on average 2,200 million barrels, a low figure compared to other Latin American countries such as Ecuador which produces 6,200 million to 11,400 million or Mexico or Venezuela that reach almost 300,000 million.

So in addition to the fact that we need the resources of the “oil boom” to be used to build capacity (infrastructure, education, CT + I, etc…) We also require that explorations increase the reserves so that we have the cushion to finance the industrial conversion of our economy.

But, despite the relative and sustained macroeconomic stability, the mining export boom and the increasing flow of foreign investments the country preserves some burdens that do not allow us to move towards a more competitive economy:

- Weaknesses in the education system. In addition to the low coverage -25% of adults are high school graduates, less than 40% of high school graduates enter higher education and only half of these graduate, there are serious quality problems: the career of teachers (graduates) is not chosen by the best graduates, there is little demand for agricultural careers-an industry that has great potential, while young people show little interest in training in mathematics, physics, chemistry or biology, key disciplines for innovation and the development of new products, processes and services;

- Absence of a state policy on infrastructure. For decades in this country there’s been talk about the need for a interoceanic canal, tunnels to facilitate traffic through so many mountains, a new railway, a project for navigation through the Magdalena river, another port in the Pacific, etc… However, most of these proposals are still on paper and those under construction are years behind.

- High laboral informality. What is handled as a strategy to reduce labor costs, informality, is in actuality a drag that does not us to modernize our economy: there are workers who do not contribute to social security, worker cooperatives exist that threaten stable pay, there’s jobs that are performed through contracts to provide services rather than indefinite term labor linkages, etc. This worsens the fiscal deficit-SISBEN-, weakenes revenue base of households and thus the purchasing and debt, stagnates the domestic market.

- Abandonment of the rural sector. The field is not the supplier of raw materials for the city and, therefore, is not a strong market for the purchase of industrial goods and services. Although the armed conflict is a determinant factor of this abandonment, rural informality, and extensive landlordism “fattening”, accompanied by unproductive fragmentation, do not facilitate the transition to a competitive field.

- Colombia: a country that does not invest in R & D. This is evident: our exports of high and medium technology amount to barely 9%, and we are a country without patent path. While successful emerging markets spend several points of GDP to CT + I, Colombia spends just under 0.3%.

Although a new System of Science Technology and Innovation has been defined, and Colciencias has been given the status of Administrative Department, at the same time considerable resources have been approved for research and innovation, there are indications that the political prey resources will prevail over the long term aspirations of this country.

All these shortcomings show that we are far from a new project Country, in other words, that Colombia 2032 is an ode to the flag … and nothing else.

Colombian peace and political stability in Venezuela: good business

Traductor (translator) Andrés Fernando Cardona Ramírez

Ver versión en castellano:

Colombia and Venezuela are living momentous political processes. The first ventures into a new attempt to cap the legendary conflict between the government and the FARC. Across the border, Venezuelans go to the polls to decide whether to continue with the political project called “XXI century socialism” or give a 180 * turn and allow the opposition to present an alternative to the nearly three decades of Chavez government.

Both the issue of war and peace, and the Venezuelan political climate are vital phenomena for stability, growth and development of the Colombian economy.

The end of the war: a motor for prosperous fields and more sustainable cities.

The first conclusions that have been raised against the armed conflict can be summarized in three points: military spending will not be reduced, peace involves decades of increased public spending to compensate victims but at the same time, contribute between 1% and 3% GDP growth. There will be no cuts to military spending partly because other destabilizing factors survive, like BACRIM and drug trafficking.

While the contribution to GDP (1-3%) can be considered a pretty solid argument to bet on the negotiation, it is necessary to review a little more to realize that the possible effects have to do with not only growth but, specially the socio-economic development. The war has brought many evils and one of them, transcendental due to our demographic structure has been the migration from the countryside to the city. This situation has led to the deterioration of our rural economy and the emergence and development of poverty belts in cities.

The end of the war must stop this wave of migration, raising the potential of the field as an economic sector, improving food supply, encouraging new industries to move into international markets, therefore improving the quality of life in cities, with adequate and financially sustainable urban planning.

The country in recent years has become a magnet for foreign capital, but funds have been especially directed towards the mining industry and to the financial services and telecommunications. The end of the conflict could reduce the level of risk; improve the skills of Colombia, creating a new appeal for foreign capital to finance the production of food, raw materials of plant and animal origin and biofuels. The comparative advantages of good climate, good soil and industrious workforce, could be the seed for creating competitive advantages from a field that is modernized, which and makes way for an export-oriented agribusiness.

Venezuela: (potential) strategic partner.

When it comes to economic matters, for decades, Venezuela has been instrumental in the Colombian economy. The crisis of commercial relationships that we are currently facing has been a blow to the economic development of our country. Although exports to the world have grown, despite the withdrawal of Venezuela from the Andean Community of Nations (AC), qualitatively speaking, the damage has not been compensated.

Why do we say that the damage has not been compensated? Because Venezuela was the largest importer of Colombian manufacturing-products with added value; while the growth of exports to the rest of the world has been mainly of mining commodities. Do not forget that before Venezuela left the AC, the country imported 80% of vehicles exported-equivalent to 20% of imports from Venezuela to Colombia, and 50% of the clothing we exported to World -16% of their total purchases from Colombia.

Venezuela was our second largest trading partner, aside from the U.S., in fact, to the border departments of Santander, Norte de Santander and Arauca, it was critical on many economic fronts and for other regions such as the Aburrá Valley it was an engine for commercial-industrial employment.

Similarly, Venezuela’s withdrawal from AC has weakened the bloc. The largest commercial center of this ambitious integration agreement was the exchange between Colombia and Venezuela, followed by Colombia and Ecuador. Peru has its sights set on global markets for mining products and Bolivia is very much dependent on Mercosur.

Perhaps the AC isnot a great accord of economic integration, although it aims to create a Customs Union. But many nations of the world today consolidated their position in the market through the blocks to which they belong. Keeping isolated weakens the bargaining power in forums such as the WTO. There, for example, an agricultural G-20 was developed to meet the interests of rural America and the European Union, and in that group is not Colombia.

Things with Venezuela, from an economic perspective, are not on the best course. But this neighbor is a strategic partner that we must recover. Independent of the results of the October 7 elections, social and political stability in the neighboring country suits our economy. Retaking the road to good relations is a key strategy for social and economic development of Colombia.

History tells us that in the past the Colombians migrated to Venezuela looking for “El Dorado” due to the lack of opportunities in our land. If In fact, long term migration enriches cultures, in the short and medium run it affects the strength of the development of cities and sometimes brings security problems. A social crisis in Venezuela could lead to a reverse migration wave, for which we are not prepared, as our current growth is not based on labor intensive sectors and the rise of underemployment may offset the demographic balance that could start generating if peace comes the Colombian countryside.