(17 August 2011) Today, the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, said that, "this can and should be the decade for Latin America," during the master conference at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) headquarters in Santiago, Chile.
In front of an audience of government authorities, members of the diplomatic corps and staff members from international organizations, the Colombian leader stressed the importance of regional integration, seeking agreements and innovation as the basic driving force for maintaining high economic growth.
"There are conceptual differences between the governments of the region, but we all seek the same objective: to improve our citizens' welfare. We must find our common denominators and in this way we will increase Latin America's prominence in the world," he stated.
President Santos was welcomed to ECLAC by the Executive Secretary of the United Nations organization, Alicia Bárcena, and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Chile, Alfredo Moreno. While welcoming the Head of State, Ms. Bárcena underlined Colombia's economic and social achievements made during the last years, as well as its policies which agree with ECLAC proposals.
"Colombia has deep relations with ECLAC and they go back to the beginning of our institution," she said. "ECLAC shares the objectives of the country's development plan; equality, overcoming poverty, increasing employment, providing better jobs and lowering informality are also our goals," she said.
The Executive Secretary of ECLAC also stated that in the face of the current global financial uncertainty, Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular, have become stronger, with good macroeconomic and international reserves positions, low levels of debt, controlled tax situations and good growth prospects.
"For this reason, regional integration and the integration of Colombia into the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) could be a great opportunity to strengthen Latin America's position at a global level," stated Ms. Bárcena.
President Santos said that it is very important to coordinate policies to achieve common goals. "We have to be more prominent on the world stage and have one voice at forums such as the G-20. If we increase our intraregional exchange flows, we can protect ourselves much better from external turmoil," he stated.
As regards innovation, which represents around 50% of growth in countries such as the Republic of Korea, he stated that it was not only a question of encouraging it in the economic area, but also in the social area. "Latin America still has very high poverty indexes despite having great wealth, such as energy, the capacity to increase food production, water, biodiversity and a young population. This is a paradox. Our countries are rich as they have everything, but they are poor as they lack what is important," he stressed.
Finally, Santos underlined the task of ECLAC, an organization which "can help us, for example, to determine what the best use of our reserves is and how to achieve the best from our potential to bridge the wide inequality gaps which still prevail in the region and maintain economic growth".
During his visit to ECLAC, the President of Colombia was accompanied by a delegation which included the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Juan Camilo Restrepo, the Minister of Transport, Germán Cardona, the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Sergio Díaz-Granados, the Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Tomás González, the Colombian ambassador in Chile, Santiago Figueroa, and other officials.
- Welcome speech in Spanish by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC (in Spanish)
- Conference by Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Colombia (in Spanish)
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