Colombia Country Dialogue 2003
March 5, 2003
IPD traveled to Colombia in March 2003 to hold an open dialogue on the country's economic development challenges and explore alternative policies for the country to pursue for long term growth and stability. The group met with Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe Velez, his economic advisors, the country's former presidents, and members of Congress.
During the visit, IPD held a conference entitled "Towards a Sustainable Economy: Armed Conflict and Post-Conflict Process in Colombia" in partnership with the Fundacion Agenda Columbia. Over 700 people participated in the conference, including Colombia's most influential politicians and policymakers. It was broadcast live throughout the country to many Colombian universities, and featured an interactive question and answer session via the Internet.
Discussions were centered on determining the role of the government in Columbia's market economy. Neoliberaldoctrines that have argued for a minimal role for government are particularly inappropriate for Colombia, where a weak state has failed to promote growth and social equity. Washington Consensus policies in the country have done little to reduce poverty and inequality. Participants posited that stabilization policies alone in Columbia will not lead to growth. In fact, an excessive focus on stabilization may indeed impair growth. The major recession of 1998-1999 was attributable in part to excessively high interest rates, leading to overvaluation of the currency.
Participants weighed possible growth strategies for Columbia. While some emphasized the potential role for exports, others were less sanguine in the current economic environment, and called for a balanced approach,supporting as well domestic expenditures, such as housing. Some strategies, involving the promotion of exports and technology, might cost relatively little.
While Colombia's economic problems could not be discussed in isolation from violence and drugs, it seemed clear that solving the drug problem, or even the violence problem, would not solve the country's economic problems. The country's economic problems contribute to the problems of violence and drugs, while violence and drugs contribute to the economic problems; there is a two-way relationship between violence and economic performance.
The publicly aired conference generated continued public policy debate for six months after the Dialogue concluded.
José Antonio Ocampo
Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University and former Minister of Finance of Colombia
Rafiq Hariri Professor of International Political Economy
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)