My dear friends,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this year’s annual meeting with the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) to discuss policy integration and foresight, and how our experience can help us overcome COVID-19 and, even more importantly, prepare for the future.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented health, economic and social shock. But it is also a lesson for us all. We thought we were better prepared for future crises. We were wrong.
The pandemic hit us hard. Global GDP in the second quarter of 2020 was 10% lower than at the end of 2019. Rapid and massive policy support meant that the subsequent recovery has been somewhat stronger than initially expected. But global output is still not yet back to pre-pandemic levels.
Outcomes are diverging substantially across sectors and between economies. Developing countries are particularly affected. Africa experienced its first recession in 25 years, with foreign direct investment declining by up to 40%. In Latin America, poverty rates may increase by 4.4 percentage points.
The crisis risks leaving behind long-lasting scars in the social tissue that bounds us, laying bare pre-existing inequalities and inadequacies in our health and social protection systems.
We need to act fast, knowing that the choice between saving lives and saving economies is a false dilemma. Actually, at this time, the best economic policy is vaccination, and I would add a crucial adjective: co-operative vaccination. Ensuring effective and equitable access to vaccines for all countries is crucial, as well as continued policy support targeted at those hardest hit.
As we build towards an inclusive recovery, it will also be essential to tackle other pressing health challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance, or mental health, which the pandemic has exacerbated.
Enhancing the positive impact of trade and investment on sustainable development, and ensuring responsible business conduct in supply chains will be crucial to build more resilient and prosperous economies, as well as supporting the developing world.
The support to our businesses, especially to SMEs, is essential. As we design and execute this support, we must use the crisis as a chance to open doors to more sustainable practices worldwide. Addressing climate change and ensuring environmental sustainability is our single most important intergenerational responsibility.
At the OECD, we are working on a new French-led proposal to establish an International Programme for Action on Climate (IPAC). It aims to bring together volunteering countries that are ready for ambitious climate action, with a focus on using measurement tools and collecting evidence on good practices to foster peer learning and provide targeted policy advice. We are delighted that Business at OECD supports this crucial initiative.
We are also working to embed a forward-looking perspective and the use of strategic foresight approaches in all areas of policy expertise, to stress-test government COVID-19 recovery plans against a range of possible future scenario.
The OECD initiative on COVID-free international mobility, which will also be key for businesses in the hospitality and tourism sectors - hardest hit by the pandemic - also continues to advance with the support of Spain and other Members.
And we are encouraging all our governments to join forces with the private sector. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of the OECD’s institutional stakeholders: Business at OECD (BIAC) and TUAC.
Representing more than 7 million companies of all sizes, Business at OECD brings legitimacy and broad representation as a voice for the business sector, which has a key role in forging the recovery from COVID-19. To help the unemployed return to work, to boost employees’ skills and to ensure no one is left behind in the recovery.
Businesses can also support the youth by hiring new graduates, offering apprenticeships, internships or work-related training. They have the opportunity to bring back the dreams and ambitions of a whole generation.
Your participation in the forthcoming Global Strategy Group (GSG) and in this year’s Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) will keep Members and the Secretariat accountable to craft an inclusive recovery, and will enrich that work with BIAC’s valuable insights.
This crisis challenges us to do more, to be innovative, to help countries achieve more inclusive, greener and sustainable growth.
Your voice is essential to achieve this. We look forward to a rich discussion today and to continue expanding and deepening our collaboration with Business at OECD, as we build forward better.