Colombia’s economy and employment are topics of vital importance to Colombian voters heading into Sunday’s presidential contest.
Coal, oil, and other mining activities will continue to be the primary driver of economic growth in the country going forward, judging by most of the candidates’ proposals, some of which even expand the large role of the mineral extraction sector in Colombia’s burgeoning globalized economy. According to the Ministry of Mining, 65% of mines do not pay royalties, and 63% operate without licenses.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
The candidates have campaigned on the need to improve Colombia’s industrial sector, as well, a sector that has suffered in recent years from trade agreements and neglect.
Infrastructure has also been a campaign topic for candidates. According to the FEDESARROLLO economic research agency, 90% of roads in Colombia are secondary and tertiary roads (roads that are not highways and serve primarily rural areas) and only about 50% and 15%, respectively, are in good conditions.
The following is a summary of the candidates’ positions on economic growth and employment.
Juan Manuel Santos (U Party — Partido de la U)
Incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, currently running for a second term, would like to continue his current economic vision for the country. The president’s goal is to decrease unemployment from the current 8.4% to 7.5%.
The incumbent’s method of employment will be primarily through development projects of infrastructure and agriculture. Santos plans on keeping mining as on of his “engines” of economic growth.
President Santos has repeatedly emphasized the economic benefits that a lasting agreement from ongoing peace talks with the FARC rebels will bring to Colombia. According to his campaign, the armed conflict costs Colombia over $10 billion a year, money which could otherwise be used to generate employment.
Incumbent President Santos proposes the following for the economy:
- Expand mineral exploration
- Expand large-scale agriculture projects to employ one million in rural areas
- Road and housing projects to employ close to two million in construction
- Create a second port on the Pacific coast
- Invest $5.5 billion in railroad construction
- Integrate Colombia with Asia through the Pacific Alliance (a trade group consisting of Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Peru)
- Double micro-loan budget from $2 billion to $4 billion
Clara Lopez (Democratic Pole — Polo Democratico)
The leftist candidate Clara Lopez once again stands out from all the other candidates with her economic proposals. Lopez is an economist with a degree from Harvard University.
The socialist candidate has proven during her time as mayor of Bogota that the Colombian left can govern responsibly. In fact, she left with the highest approval ratings of any mayor.
Lopez suggests a temporary program of increased state spending to establish a more sustainable and equitable economic growth. Clara Lopez believes that simple economic growth is not all that matters, but rather that “most important is the holistic development of each and every human being.”
Clara would like to see Colombia industrialize and supply the national market at competitive prices. The leftist candidate would implement programs of alternative economic development to make the country less dependent on mineral and agricultural exports.
Clara Lopez proposes the following for the economy:
- Tax financial dividends and extend a progressive national tax
- Invest in developing various models of infrastructure to increase transport by rivers, railroad, and roads
- Reduce sales tax (IVA) for essential goods
- Renegotiate trade agreements
- Provide additional support for small and medium-sized businesses that are part of a production chain and add value to products (not services, financial, or transport businesses)
- Support the troubled textile and auto-parts industries
Oscar Ivan Zuluaga (Democratic Center — Centro Democratico)
Presidencial candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga never released a plan to boost employment, but does have an “agenda for development.” Candidate Zuluaga was Finance Minister during the 2008 global financial meltdown.
The conservative candidate would like to increase Colombia’s exports through a more extensive integration into the global economy.
Zuluaga would honor current trade agreements and keep mining as a key factor of growth.
Oscar Ivan Zuluaga proposes the following for the economy:
- Encourage regional businesses and economic development
- Quadruple investment in research and development
- Build roads through public-private partnerships
- No more trade agreements
- Improve Ecopetrol, the partly state-owned oil giant
- Update intellectual property rights law to protect innovation
- Create capital-friendly environment
Enrique Peñalosa (Green Alliance — Alianza Verde)
The Green Party candidate has not presented a clear economic plan, but Peñalosa, whose campaign adds focus largely on environmental issues, says his strategy focuses on developing industry and agriculture and establishing an alternative to the unsustainable growth provided by mining and oil.
Enrique Peñalosa plans to increase the country’s tax base, which currently stands at only 15% of GDP. Peñalosa’s economic vision focuses on promoting small businesses.
Peñalosa recognizes that mining provides important funds for the state, but has stated in debates that he will always choose the environment over mining in the event of a conflict.
Peñalosa proposes the following for the economy:
- Provide trained specialist consultants for different small business sectors
- Extension of the national tax
- Implement a standard 21% tax on company profits
Marta Lucia Ramirez (Conservative Party — Partido Conservador)
The conservative party candidate has declared ambitious goals for the economy. Ramirez’s economic plan focuses on industrializing the country and bringing jobs to rural areas of the country, where poverty rates are twice as high as in the cities.
If elected president, Ramirez would attempt to make Colombia more competitive in the global market.
Ramirez proposes the following for the economy and employment:
- Create a National Entrepreneurship Institute to promote 800,000 new businesses and make four-million new jobs
- Double area used for agriculture
- Encourage food processing businesses in rural areas
- Create fund to modernize economy
- Direct foreign investment towards new technologies and industry
- Enrique Peñalosa (Campaign Website)
- Juan Manuel Santos (Campaign Website)
- Martha Lucia Ramirez (Campaign Website)
- Oscar Ivan Zuluaga (Campaign Website)
- Más Allá De Los Escándalos, Esto Proponen Los Candidatos (La Silla Vacia)
- Las propuestas de Clara López en materia económica (Portfolio)
- Infrastructura de Transporte en Colombia (Fedesarrollo)
- Censo Minero Departamental (Ministerio de Minas y Energia)