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Colombia is a Latin American success story, but must pursue new reforms to achieve more inclusive growth

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Colombia’s economy is resilient and appears well equipped to navigate a challenging external environment dominated by protectionism and uncertainty, but it must pursue new reforms to make growth stronger and more inclusive, according to a new report from the OECD.

The latest OECD Economic Survey of Colombia discusses how boosting productivity through new structural reforms can help the country create new high-quality jobs, draw more advantages from greater integration with the global economy and continue the convergence process with OECD countries. The Survey projects the Colombian economy will remain resilient, with growth of around 3.4% this year and 3.5% next, but cautions that trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainties and weaker advanced economies are important downside risks.

The Survey, presented in Bogota by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, alongside Colombian President Iván Duque, Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez and Minister of Finance and Public Credit Alberto Carrasquilla, discusses the need to boost productivity, improve social policy and make exports an engine for both growth and the creation of high-quality jobs.   

“Colombia has made tremendous economic and social progress, driven by impressive reforms that have created a solid macroeconomic framework and set the basis for the future,” Mr Gurría said. “The challenge facing policymakers today is to put the economy on a path to stronger and more inclusive growth, with the benefits shared among more Colombians. Courageous structural reforms will help Colombia converge with OECD living standards, reach its potential and achieve a more inclusive economy.” (Read the speech)

The Survey points out that further advances in living standards will hinge on reforms to reinvigorate productivity growth, which has stagnated in the last decade and is low by Latin American standards. Reforms should seek to reduce regulatory burdens, increase competition, quicken digital transformation and boost innovation, notably through greater support for R&D.

To help Colombia meet its untapped export potential, the government should seek to reduce tariffs and the scope of non-tariff barriers to trade, continue improvements to infrastructure, customs and logistics services and allow greater competition in key sectors, such as transport, which would improve competitiveness. Further support for entrepreneurship and greater access to finance will also be fundamental.

Colombia has seen some success in reducing its high levels of labour market informality, but more must be done to ensure that government policies promote both formal employment and inclusiveness. Continuing the reduction of non-wage labour costs, which are among the highest in Latin America, will be key. Decreasing firms’ registration costs and simplifying the registration of workers to social security would facilitate formalisation of firms and jobs. Reviewing the minimum wage could help achieve a more job-friendly wage level.

Improving the quality and relevance of education and training will also be critical for Colombian efforts to prepare workers for high-quality formal employment. Colombia needs to prioritise early-childhood and basic education, particularly in rural areas, as well as the provision of quality teaching staff. More can be done to ensure that the vocational training system provides adequate skills enabling workers to enter formal employment and break out of poverty, the Survey said.

To ensure sound public finances while creating space for dealing with potential future shocks, Colombian macroeconomic policy will need to strike an appropriate balance, the Survey said. This should include gradual reduction in the budget deficit, to 1% of GDP by 2022, in line with the fiscal rule, coupled with targeted social policies aimed at reducing inequality and poverty.

Further tax reforms should seek to improve redistribution, raise revenues and improve the tax mix. Broadening the bases of personal and value-added taxes, reducing the corporate tax rate and eliminating its numerous tax exemptions should be considered. Further revenue could come from environmental taxes and from strengthening tax administrations to reduce tax evasion.

Reforms to the pension system will be necessary to reduce old-age poverty and ensure sustainability.

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Private markets forecast to grow to $4.9tn globally by 2025 and make up 10% of global AuM

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Assets under management (AuM) in private markets to expand by between $4.2 trillion and $5.5 trillion in the years up to 2025 in worst/best case scenarios for economic recovery, according to new analysis from PwC.

The report, Prime time for private markets: The new value creation playbook, examines prospects for four primarily illiquid asset classes of private equity (including venture capital), infrastructure, real estate and private credit across a range of scenarios for 2019-2025. 

The report projects significant growth for the value of private markets of $5.5tn (best case), $4.9tn (base case) and $4.2tn (worst case) depending on how global economic conditions respond to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

Will Jackson-Moore, global leader for private equity, real assets and sovereign funds at PwC says,‘The report highlights the continued emergence of private markets as a fast growing and highly impactful portion of global capital markets. Investors continue to look to the sector to deliver the yields that lower risk and more liquid asset classes struggle to match. 

‘Yet this is also an opportunity for private markets to take a lead on ESG and net zero commitments and demonstrate the impact they can make in public perception beyond public markets.’

Opportunities across asset classes

Even in the worst case scenario of a prolonged recession, the projections look ahead to growth of almost 50%  up to 2025.

While private equity is very much “the asset class of the moment” there is evidence that there are significant opportunities for growth and returns in areas such as real estate, infrastructure and private credit.

Will Jackson-Moore says,‘While opportunities for growth are out there, it is important to emphasise that returns will be harder to find and be more aggressively fought for. Managers will need to be innovative in their approach to value creation and respond swiftly to changing investors and governmental expectations as economies recover from the effects of the crisis.’

ESG and going beyond financial return

Will Jackson-Moore says,‘Our research highlights the extent to which financial return is no longer the sole driver of private markets growth. ESG and Net Zero commitments now represent a significant source of value preservation and creation. 

‘Private market managers need to respond by looking at how to apply an ESG lens to investment strategy and product development. Whether it is in impact turnaround initiatives in which ‘dirty’ production facilities are turned green, or building strong commitment to diversity and inclusion at your organisation, these matters are no longer an overlay.’

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Key Reforms Needed to Grow Albania’s E-commerce Sector

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A new World Bank Albania E-Commerce Diagnostic highlights key reforms needed to better leverage digital trade as opportunity for economic development.

E-commerce can be an important asset for Albania. Online sales channels allow businesses to reach more customers, at home and abroad. Customers gain from greater convenience and more choice. Sectors enabling e-commerce can create new jobs, including in technology companies, logistics and online payments.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online markets are playing a particularly important role by allowing economic life to continue despite social distancing. The 2020 World Bank Enterprise Survey reveals that almost 20 percent of Albanian firms surveyed reported having either started or increased online business activity during the crisis.

To help Albania seize the digital trade opportunity, this new diagnostic identifies a roadmap of critical reforms in logistics and customs;  digital connectivity; online payments; private sector capabilities and skills; and the e-commerce regulatory framework.

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Digitalizing the Maritime Sector Set To Boost the Competitiveness of Global Trade

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A new report launched today by the World Bank and the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) shows that better digital collaboration between private and public entities across the maritime supply chain will result in significant efficiency gains, safer and more resilient supply chains, and lower emissions.

Maritime transport carries over 90% of global merchandise trade, totaling some 11 billion tons of cargo per year. Digitalizing the sector would bring wide-ranging economic benefits and contribute to a stronger, more sustainable recovery.

Accelerating Digitalization: Critical Actions to Strengthen the Resilience of the Maritime Supply Chain describes how collaborative use of digital technology can help streamline all aspects of maritime transport, from cross-border processes and documentation to communications between ship and shore, with a special focus on ports.

The COVID-19 crisis has evidenced a key benefit of digitizing waterborne and landside operations: meeting the urgent needs to minimize human interaction and enhance the resilience of supply chains against future crises.

“In many of our client countries, inefficiencies in the maritime sector result in delays and higher logistics costs, with an adverse impact on the entire economy. Digitization gives us a unique chance to address this issue,” noted Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure. “Beyond immediate benefits to the maritime sector, digitalization will help countries participate more fully in the global economy, and will lead to better development outcomes.”

IAPH Managing Director of Policy and Strategy, Dr Patrick Verhoeven, added: “the report’s short and medium term measures to accelerate digitalization have the proven potential to improve supply chain resilience and efficiency whilst addressing potential risks related to cybersecurity. However, necessary policy reform is also vital. Digitalization is not just a matter of technology but, more importantly, of change management, data collaboration, and political commitment.”

Although the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has made it mandatory for all its member countries to exchange key data electronically (the FAL convention), a recent IAPH survey reveals that only a third of over 100 responding ports comply with that requirement. The main barriers to digitalize cited by the ports were the legal framework in their countries or regions and persuading the multiple private-public stakeholders to collaborate, not the technology.

The report analyzes numerous technologies applied already by some from the world’s leading port and maritime communities, including big data, the internet of things (IoT), fifth-generation technology (5G), blockchain solutions, wearable devices, unmanned aircraft systems, and other smart technology-based methods to improve performance and economic competitiveness.

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