By Colombia2020, EL ESPECTADOR, April 24, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The Programs for Development with a Focus on the Territories (PDET is the Spanish acronym.) are at the center of the Integrated Rural Reform, the very first point in the Peace Agreement. One of the think tanks that is keeping track of progress on the Agreement says the government has limited the reach of those programs and that they do not have assured financing. The government defends its management.
One of the criticisms is that the government overloaded the Future Zones onto the PDET regions, which would imply an intervention in the countryside that is more of a military character than an integrated governmental presence.
If there is a flagship project that the Duque government has undertaken in relation to implementing the Peace Agreement, it’s the undertaking of the Development Programs focused on the territories. Known as the PDETs, they are stipulated in the first point of the Final Havana Agreement. So much so that the government’s critics accuse it of reducing all of the Integrated Rural Reform to those 16 programs that, even though they are fundamental for the development of the countryside, ought to go hand in hand with other strategies that are included in the Agreement. However, a recent document produced for the Center for Political Thinking and Dialog, created by the Agreement itself to make sure that there would be follow-up, maintains that the government’s strategy with the PDETs is aimed more at pretending to implement it than to actually apply the mandate imposed by the Peace Agreement.
Those programs that are now in the middle of the dispute, as the national government defends its management, were the programs intended by the Peace Agreement to give priority to the regions that were most affected by the violence, the poverty, the abandonment by the government, and the illegal crops. Specifically, 170 municipalities in 16 subregions were identified. They are known throughout the country because the war showed them no mercy: Montes de María, Urabá in Antioquia Province, Catatumbo or southern Bolívar Province, among others. Every region was to be able to count on having its own PDET. These are some of the criticisms made by the think tank, which collect most of what the FARC Party has also pointed out.
The government limited the PDETs
The 16 Development Programs Focused on the Territories were put together with the massive participation of the communities in those 16 regions. After doing participation exercises in the towns (veredas), in the municipalities, and in the subregions, an Action Plan for Regional Transformation (PATR) was completed in each one, and the Plan contained the priorities identified by the communities: a document that is supposed to contain their own vision about the territory for the upcoming 10 to 15 years. Those plans were woven into other programs that were also stipulated in the Agreement, such as the sectorial National Plans for Rural Reform. There are also 16 of those and they are intended to close the breaches between city and country in the areas of education, health, and housing, as well as others. They go along with the program for substitution of illegal crops, stipulated in point 4. In short, the PDETs were to be the tools to carry out the Integrated Rural Reform in the 16 priority areas.
The think tank document says that the government reduced the PDET plans to only the Action Plans for Regional Transformation, which was also not what was stipulated in the Agreement. What ended up happening, according to the center, is a list of the more than 32,000 initiatives requested by the communities. Much of the time, those are just the daily and basic government responsibilities, with or without the Peace Agreement. In the end, that does not really mean “government interventions in addition to those that are already required by the constitution and the laws, and that could be identified as the reparative support required by the Peace Agreement in these regions.”
According to the think tank, in the participation exercises, the government stipulated eight pillars (education, health, housing, land titling, and others) and they categorized all of the needs of the communities in these, with primary emphasis on the municipal level. That can be seen in the 32,808 collected initiatives, where 96% (31,630) of them are municipal, contrary to the regional vision that is promoted in the Agreement.
In the same way, the PDETs have not been implemented in a way that is integrated with the other programs of the Rural Reform. This is another of the criticisms in the document. The PDETs are not connected to the sectorial National Plans of the Program for substitution of crops (since of those 16, they have only adopted five: housing, roads, rural connectivity, rural electrification, and merchandising for the campesino economy). Its progress has been minimal, and the program for turning land parcels over to campesinos, as of this date, has not even been commenced.
On that point, the government defended the form in which it had constructed the PATR. “It was a planning process with territorial focus without precedent in the history of Colombia,” insisted the Agency for the Renewal of the Countryside (ART is the Spanish acronym.) The ART is in charge of putting the PDETs into effect. They emphasized the participation of more than 220,000 people in 11,000 towns (veredas) in the 170 municipalities that have been prioritized.
On the lack of an integrated approach, the government insists that the goal of integrating all of the programs and strategies fits in well with the territories’ design of a “road map”, which is included in the National Development Plan. The PDET of every one of the 16 regions has one of those. As of now, only the PDET of Catatumbo has been approved. In accordance with the ART there was wide community participation, and participation by local authorities, social organizations, academics, business people, and also international cooperation.
The PDETs do not have assured financing
The magnitude of the work of implementing the Integrated Rural Reform is such that, of the $129 billion estimated cost of implementing the entire Agreement, $110 billion are destined just for this point; that is to say, 85% of the total cost of what was agreed. And of those $110 billion, around $79 billion are for the PDETs.
The document points out that the problem with this amount is that more than half of the resources come from the General Participation System (SGP is the Spanish acronym.). That refers to the transfers that the provinces and the municipalities are required by law to receive. It means, basically, that with or without the Peace Agreement, those resources will go to the municipalities and are already specifically allocated to education, health, clean water, and basic sanitation. Because of that, what comes from the SGP is not “fresh resources” for the implementation of the Agreement and, in this case, for the PDETs.
Of the $79 billion to be invested in the PDETs, not counting what comes from SGP, only 40% ($30 billion) constitutes additional resources. “What’s the sense of carrying out participation processes to define the coordinates of territorial transformation of the PATR if the financial resources that would finance those initiatives already have a specific destination and it won’t be possible to finance those coordinates?”, says the think tank. In a few words, the government will be counting resources that go to the municipalities under the Constitution of 1991 as part of the task of implementing the PDETs, without necessarily making any additional fiscal effort.
That’s in addition to fact that the estimate of how much it will cost to implement the PDETs, which is in Conpes 3932 of 2018, was made before those 16 programs were formulated and before the initiatives prioritized by the communities were even known.
Regarding the financing of these programs, the ART responded that there are other sources besides the SGP. They emphasized the fiscal note for the construction of peace that was included in the Proposed General Budget for the Country in 2020, where $634 billion pesos (about USD 156,803,000) were destined for the municipal PDETs. Likewise, everything that comes from a decision-making agency known as OCAD Paz and from private business by means of the public works tax deduction.
The Duque Government’s Future Zones Over the PDET Regions of the Peace Agreement
Apart from the PDETs that are stipulated in the Agreement, the Duque government created the Integrated Strategic Intervention Zones (ZEII in Spanish, or Future Zones) to contribute to what has been called the stabilization of areas most affected by the armed conflict. Naturally, those zones are territorially the same as the zones where the PDETs are to be implemented.
The document maintains that the priorities in these territories will change because what they are proposing for the future of these zones is radically different (even opposite) from what is set forth in the Agreement. “They impose a rationale of securitization and pacification, relying on the presence and activities of the Armed Forces in the territories, and that displaces the logic of a government intervention that works toward the transformation of the countryside,” according to the report.
On that point the document emphasizes the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court in which the high could stipulated that those future zones must be coherent with the commitments derived from the Peace Agreement, in order to intervene in the zones affected by the violence.
The “Project PDETs ”
When the government presents reports on advances in the execution of the PDETs, it usually does it by referring to what they call “project PDETs”, like the projects on taxes and the projects approved in OCAD Paz. As of now, they have turned over more than 990 of the first, and another 195 are being executed, for an investment of 222,000 million pesos (about USD 55,500,000) for that concept. For the tax projects there are resources to carry out 40 projects in PDET municipalities, with an investment of 348,000 million pesos (about USD 87,000,000). And through OCAD Paz, 96 projects have been approved in those municipalities, for a value of 914,000 million pesos (about USD 228,000,000).
As for the so-called project PDETs, warns the document, they were what were previously called small community infrastructure projects, originally created to take care of immediate necessities in the communities bordering the former territorial spaces for reincorporation. They were not necessarily part of what the communities had planned in the PATR. “It’s important to point out that the government headed by President Iván Duque can’t consider the execution of the PDETs by means of that kind of project, because the precise function of those projects was to take care of minor necessities, while the PDETs, ten year plans, are trying to transform much more complicated realities.” That’s because those PDET projects right now are, for example, community centers, sports fields, pedestrian bridges, community dining facilities, as well as other works that are small in scope.
In the same way, the projects being carried out through the strategy of tax deductions for private businesses or those approved in OCAD Paz also don’t have a clear relationship to the objectives of regional transformation that the PDETs have.
The government, for its part, defends the execution of the
project PDETs, among other reasons, because they strengthen the community
organizations in the countryside; they participate directly in the
implementation of those initiatives. Likewise, it claims that they are
necessary and “important for generating confidence in the long term
implementation process. The mayors and the communities in the 170
municipalities have emphasized the importance of these investments because of
the scarce resources they are able to count on,” answered the ART.
 Conpes is the Spanish acronym for Colombia’s National Council of Political and Social Economics.
 OCAD Paz is Colombia’s Collegial Organization for Administration and Decision—Peace, under the Treasury Ministry.