GDN Conference opens with Colombian optimism

 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos address at the GDN 12th Annual Conference

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

Juan Manuel Santos, the President of Colombia, welcomed GDN’s 12th Annual Conference back to the Latin American continent for the first time in nine years. He spoke of the importance of the conference in bringing together critical thinkers to inform good policy decisions. “We never make decisions with 100% certainty that it will be right, but institutions like GDN, which the entire world acknowledges is of the highest intellectual level, can give us important guidance and signals….to make our world a better world.”

The President, looking relaxed but walking with a stick as a result of an injury sustained during a friendly with Colombia’s talented Sub20 football team, talked about the failure of economists to predict the 2008 global financial crisis. He said that he hoped the Colombian team, who have gone to Peru to play a preliminary for the World Cup, would do better than the economists.

The President looked forward to a healthy economic future for his country. He spoke about the progress made in recent years to stem the violence in Colombia, and outlined the five ‘vehicles for growth’ which would establish the country’s economic place in the world. He put a figure on his ambitions for growth for the first time, to the delight of the media (link to Santiago’s story), as more than 5% per year.

Colombia has been tipped to be one of six ‘countries to watch’ by the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC), along with Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. These ‘CIVET’ countries are poised to succeed the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China – and more recently South Africa who was invited by China to join in 2010) as drivers of growth in the next decade, according to a report published by the bank in April last year. Why? Because, according to according to the CEO of HSBC, Mike Geoghegan, “Each has a large, young, growing population. Each has a diverse and dynamic economy. And each, in relative terms, is politically stable.”

The President said he hoped that HSBC’s CEO has the same foresight as his equivalent number at the investment bank Goldman Sachs, who first coined the term BRICs in 2001 to describe ‘the big four’ countries poised for greatness over the next decade.

President Santos talked about the importance of economic growth to the region, but made a plea for better indicators of development that take into account more than strictly economic measures. He said that above incomes of around $15,000 per year, people do not get happier as they earn more money. A new index launched by the UK’s New Economics Foundation combines environmental impact with human wellbeing to measure the environmental efficiency with which people live long and happy lives. This Happy Planet Index shows Latin America leading the field, with nine of the ten top-scoring nations in the region, and Costa Ricans reporting the highest life satisfaction in the world.

He formerly opened the conference, wishing that all delegates would be inspired by Bogota’s altitude.

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About Megan Lloyd-Laney
Director of CommsConsult www.commsconsult.org and hopelessly - some would say exhaustingly - committed to the relentless pursuit of communications excellence in everything we do. Happy to be part of the team behind www.researchtoaction.org - the 'go-to' platform for anyone wanting to maximise the potential of their research

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