SEMANA, August 15, 2022


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

In an interview with SEMANA, the Minister talked about how the outgoing President emptied the Treasury.

It’s still being rumored that ex-President Iván Duque “scraped out the pot”, by handing out contracts and appointing allies to new positions. Because of the tough economic situation confronting the country, this casts doubt on the management of finances by the outgoing President.

In an interview with SEMANA, José Antonio Ocampo, Gustavo Petro’s Minister of Finance, talked about economic efforts by the Iván Duque administration. Without harsh judgments, the Minister let it be known that he was not entirely satisfied with the strategy that had been acted upon.

With regard to “scraping out the pot”, he began by saying that he didn’t like the expression. “The truth is that I don’t like it. But let’s just say there was an incomplete fiscal arrangement, because this year the fiscal deficit had been reduced significantly, but anyway we are saying that we have to reduce it still more for the coming year so as to comply with the fiscal policy.”

“The deficit is 5.6%. Besides that, we have a deficit in the Fuel Prices Stabilization Fund that’s 3% of the GDP. The total deficit is really large and the public debt, which has been coming down, is still one of the highest in history. It’s more than 60% of GDP,” he added.

“That high deficit is because of the inefficiency of the previous administration, or is it because of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic?” asked Vicky Dávila, Director of SEMANA. Ocampo placed most of the blame on Covid-19, but also on the measures taken by the Duque administration.

“I would say that the No. 1 cause was the pandemic and hence, the programs that were adopted under the Duque administration because of it. But you can also say that the adjustment has been a bit more gradual than in other Latin American countries. Or that Colombia, in 2021, made very little adjustment. That really started just this year, while several countries, Brazil for example, or Chile or Peru, started making very strong adjustments last year,” the Minister indicated.

Ocampo calls for calm about the dollar

In his interview with SEMANA, José Antonio Ocampo spoke about those times of uncertainty about the increase in the value of the dollar, and he explained that there’s no need to worry about that indicator.

When Vicky Dávila, Director of SEMANA, asked him if the exchange rate worried him, the Minister was clear in his answer: “No.”

“What happened with the dollar was caused by international events that affected a lot of countries. Here in Colombia, we have a very large trade deficit. In a radio interview, I said not to worry. The dollar is going up too much and it’s going to start going down, and the next day it started to go down. It had reached nearly 4,200 pesos. That’s the way the market works. Now there’s no reason to be scared,” explained Gustavo Petro’s Minister.

About those that think the economy is not safe in the hands of Gustavo Petro’s administration, Minister Ocampo answered, “We have complete confidence. In a certain sense, to be quite clear, I’m part of what generates confidence in the administration.”

Ocampo also referred to the criticisms of the tax reform bill, which many are sure could block the growth that the Colombian economy is now seeing.

“The tax reform bill favors low income people who generate consumption. So it’s not clear that it would have any effect on growth,” the economist told SEMANA.

Here is the complete interview:

Vicky Dávila: Mr. Minister, are you pushing a tax reform that’s going to be a problem?

José Antonio Ocampo: It’s a difficult task because we have two different challenges. Ending the tax adjustment that has been incomplete under the previous administration, even though it improved significantly this year, and in addition, financing the programs of the new administration.

V.D. You are a very serious man. That’s why I want to ask you if it’s true that the Duque administration left the pot scraped bare?

J.O. I wouldn’t use that term. The truth is I don’t like it. But let’s say that the tax adjustment was left incomplete. The deficit is 5.6%. Besides that, we have a deficit in the Fuel Price Stabilization Fund that’s 3% of GDP. The total deficit is very large, and the public debt, which had been going down, is still one of the highest in history. It’s more than 60% of GDP.

V.D. Is the deficit so high because of the inefficiency of the previous administration, or is it because of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic?

J.O. I would say that the No. 1 cause was the pandemic.

V.D. Some people are comparing the tax reform of the Petro administration with Carrasquilla’s tax bill? Is that a fable or a joke?

J.O. A fable, totally.

V.D. Aren’t they comparable?

J.O. No. The focus of our reform is different. We are not making some of the mistakes that Minister Carrasquilla made, and those mistakes were the ones that led to the popular protest.

V.D. In the campaign they said that the reform would raise 50 trillion pesos (roughly USD $12,057,000,000 at today’s rates); later they said it could be 75 (roughly USD $18,085,000,000 at today’s rates) and at the end it was 25 (roughly USD $6,028,000,000 at today’s rates). What happened?

J.O. Strictly, it’s 25. But as there are a lot of regulations about tax evasion, we are hoping that that amount will be increasing and that, by the end of the term, we would reach 50 trillion annually. That’s our objective.

V.D. Some experts are saying that this tax reform will be a blow to the middle class. Is that true?

J.O. To be sincere, I was careful to look into that. Those of us that earn more than 10 million pesos (roughly USD $2,400 at today’s rates) represent the 2% with the highest incomes in Colombia.

V.D. For a person who earns 10 million pesos a month, can you really consider them rich?

J.O. I earn that much and I don’t consider myself rich, so no. Who will be impacted by the reform? Those that earn more than 50 million pesos (roughly USD $12, 053 at today’s rates) a month.

V.D. Decreeing a tax on sugary drinks and ultra-processed foods could hit the poorest classes, don’t you think?

J.O. Yes, that tax in effect could hit some sectors with low and middle incomes.

V.D. You admit that.

J.O. It’s a subject that several members of Congress have mentioned to me, but it’s a tax that has a completely different origin and that’s public health. The Health Minister was the main one that suggested this reform. Such an initiative has been discussed in other administrations.

V.D. And it’s always died.

J.O. Up to now, it’s died. I think it will go this time.

V.D. When you say it’s a different objective and it’s public health more than revenue, what does that mean? That it will reduce the consumption?

J.O. Yes, not only this tax but the one on single-use plastics. The best result would be that there wouldn’t be any revenue from those. That means that people are changing their habits of consumption, and the companies that produce those things can offer something else.

V.D. That’s going to get you into some problems, Mr. Minister. Imagine what everybody that likes sausage will be thinking if you tell them that the company isn’t going to produce sausage anymore.

J.O. Well, I don’t know.

V.D. Don’t you eat sausage, Mr. Minister?

J.O. Well, I am a consumer of chorizo.

V.D. An expert!

J.O. Yes, because I was born here. So I love chorizo.

V.D. Finally, what the Petro administration wants is that those products, like the soda and other stuff, will disappear from the market.

J.O. Yes, but . . .

V.D. So there won’t be so many sold, because the people won’t consume them.

J.O. So they will be displaced by other products.

V.D. So they replace them with lettuce.

J.O. Not with lettuce, but with other products. For example, sugarless soft drinks or desserts that are made in a different way.

V.D. If there is a sugarless soft drink, will there be a tax on that?

J.O. No, because it doesn’t contain any sugar.

V.D. Some people are saying that there’s no proof that this will reduce consumption of sugary drinks or ultra-processed food, even with the imposition of the tax.

J.O. That’s an area where we will have to see how it works out in practice. But I think we have to work with the companies. Or, with Coca-Cola, Postobón, and Nutresa, for example, so that they change the products they are selling, and can sell at the same price if they want to, but with no-tax labels. That are of good quality in terms of public health.

V.D. There are people that are worried because they think that with the tax reform their pension will be taxable. Does this apply to everyone that receives a pension?

J.O. Colombia has one very peculiar characteristic. It’s the only country in the world where not just contributions toward pensions, but the pension itself is tax-exempt. In nearly the entire world, the contributions are tax-exempt, but the pension is not. In other words, it’s one benefit, but not two. The amount that we’re proposing to tax, above 10 million pesos (roughly USD $2,400 at today’s rates) per month, would affect only 0.2 percent of pensioners in Colombia, the ones who receive a pension of more than that. We are really attacking or affecting a very small group of the population.

V.D. How much tax would be paid by a person that receives a pension of more than 10 million pesos per month?

J.O. If they receive 10 million pesos per month, they would pay nothing. For more than that there is a table. That rate is a little more than 20%.

V.D. 20%?

J.O. They would only pay a tax on what they receive that’s more than ten million pesos. Let me explain: someone that has a pension of 12 million pesos per month, would pay 20% on the 2 million excess, or would pay 400,000 pesos (roughly USD $94 at today’s rates).

V.D. With regard to petroleum, there are those who see the tax reform as a threat to that sector. Is that true?

J.O. What we are capturing here is a part, even a small part, of the huge price increases they are having. Following the international tendency, the United Kingdom imposed an additional 25% tax on the oil companies. What we are saying is that, for those products that have an extraordinarily high price, we would capture a tiny part to finance the administration’s social programs.

V.D. What are the accounts you are funding with this tax?

J. O. In the case of petroleum, more or less, the base price is USD $48 per barrel. Now it’s more or less double that, to USD $96. We are saying that, of the exports, 10% of the difference between USD $96 and USD $48, more or less, 7.5% goes to the national treasury. That’s the same as gold.

V.D. And that won’t wreck or prejudice the industry?

J.O. It’s a little reduction and there’s a great deal of margin remaining. There will be a lot more earnings.

V.D. So, there’s not any reason for the companies to complain.

J.O. We hope not.

V.D. Where’s the Ecopetrol board going? What will the change in the statutes be?

J.O. We’ll create a board.

V. D. Have you set a date?

J.O. Not yet. We have to get it together; we’ll be starting to ask for the resignations of some of the current members.

V.D. Do you already know which ones?

J.O. That’s not a public matter.

V.D. Have you already requested the resignations?

J.O.  We will ask for them so that, when we call the assembly together, we will have several members of the board that we can appoint. Then we will make a change in the statutes, although it’s not clear what we will be doing.

V.D. How many of the members of the board are you going to ask to resign.

J.O. Two, for now. In fact, we plan to retain some of the members.

V.D. Are you going to ask Luigi Echeverri, the president of the board, to resign?

J.O. That is one of the resignations that we are going to ask for.

V.D. And who is the other person?

J.O. I’m not going to say.

V.D. Are you going to ask the President of Ecopetrol, Felipe Bayón, to resign.

J.O. That is a subject for the board that we will be appointing. He is a great technician.

V.D. And, besides, he’s doing very well at Ecopetrol. It’s at a good time.

J.O. It went really well in the first six months, because of the international petroleum price situation, among other things. It was a great benefit for the administration that it had obtained extraordinary earnings in the first six months of the year.

V.D. Could it be that they would ask Bayón to stay on?

J.O. The Ecopetrol technical team is very good. You can’t deny that. Perhaps Dr. Bayón ought not to have gone out to defend fracking, since we are opposed to that. It is the administration’s policy. Ecopetrol will have to get used to the idea that there won’t be any fracking.

V.D. Also, in a country like Colombia, you can’t be throwing out loose talk. I can see that you are watching how they talk at Ecopetrol . . .

J.O. I am watching Ecopetrol. It’s our big business, number 1. in Colombia. For the administration, Ecopetrol is one of the treasures we have to care for and improve as much as possible. It’s Colombia’s treasure. But it also can do some different things. The company is already into alternative energies and into green hydrogen, which don’t generate climate change problems. That is a whole line. Besides, the recent discoveries of gas have been very positive, because in Colombia we are lacking gas to a far greater extent than we lack petroleum.

V.D. Mr. Minister, you have another really important decision. Will the price of gasoline and fuel in general be increasing?

J.O. Yes, we will have to decide that. It’s calm for now.

V.D. Will it happen before the end of this year?

J.O. Not all right away. Some of the prices will have to be adjusted partially. We have to see how we can finance the deficit in that fund.

V.D.  Is the Fuel Price Stabilization Fund out of money?

J.O. Well, 3% of the GDP almost equals the national deficit.

V.D. With the tax reform bill, the wage-earners will end up stuck as usual, because they can never escape the taxes; they are always reporting. But this tax reform will be going after the informals?

J.O. From the taxation point of view, informal businesses are the most important. That’s why there is a taxation procedure that we are developing so as to be able to attract the businesses that now are informal. We hope to attract them with benefits.

V.D. Attract them or go after them?

J.O. You can go after them with a measure using the Dian[1] information system, based on their electronic payment system, getting better day by day. There are more and more electronic payments and that makes it easier. The other informal systems are the criminal businesses, and that’s more complicated. It will have to include security issues.

V.D. Are you talking about the drug money?

J.O. The drug money and the paramilitaries.

V.D. In the end, the FARC dissidents, ELN, Clan del Golfo, all of that is drug trafficking.

J.O. In his inaugural address, the President made more ambitious proposals. We have been the victims of the war on drugs, because ultimately, the consumers are in other countries and the violence is here.

V.D. Do you think the parties will approve the tax reform bill without asking for any changes?

J.O. We will separate that out from the budget at the start. I’m an optimist. Sure we will make changes, whether they or the opposition propose them. What I have said definitely is that, if you want to propose changes that result in reduced revenue, then also propose changes that will produce more revenue.

V.D. On social networks they have begged insistently that there be an income tax imposed on the churches. Do you agree?

J.O. The church has always been outside the tax system.

V. D. Yes, but there are people that are asking for it to be included.

J.O. We wouldn’t do that for anything in the world.

V.D. Why not?

J.O. Because there is religious freedom. This is a country that respects all religions. We aren’t going to get into that.

V.D. The argument that some people are making is that the churches move a lot of money . . .

J.O. We can leave that to another conversation, but more likely, many churches are lacking money. That is, there are very few that have an excess of money. The majority are not prosperous.

V.D. They always defend themselves by saying that they pay other taxes.

J.O. Obviously. For example, they pay IVA[2] on what they consume.

V.D. Let’s talk about the tax reform bill and the dividends that have caused so much controversy. Would that be double taxation?

J.O. In effect, but curiously, it’s the international system. Yes, there is double taxation if the companies don’t retain the earnings and invest them. Then there’s no double taxation. So, that’s an incentive for the companies to invest more and hold on to their funds. When we looked at alternatives, we made the proposal that generated controversy. But the problem is that, if we don’t include dividends and occasional earnings, we don’t capture the income of the richest people in Colombia.

V.D. Why?

J.O. Because they’re living on that.

V.D. By the way, another complex issue is the property tax that has been imposed before, but prospectively. This reform would impose it permanently.

J.O. This is also an international trend, and more and more countries are adopting it.

V.D. But some experts think it’s anti-technology.

J.O. I paid property tax until the ‘80’s, because it had been permanent in Colombia since 1935. Nobody said that was abnormal. The historical justification of the property tax, which came from the administration of López Pumarejo, is that the income from capital will never be captured adequately in the income tax, and is the way to capture income that doesn’t come from wages and salaries. The problem is that the whole tax system is punishing those who earn wages and salaries, because they have no way to evade those taxes.

V.D. There’s no way to escape.

J.O. No. In contrast, income not coming from wages and salaries has many ways to escape. If you look at them, those are the incomes from dividends and occasional earnings.

V.D. What happens with occasional earnings?

J.O. They also constitute income.

V.D. But how much will they have to pay?

J.O. Depending on the person’s revenues. A person receiving 10 million pesos (roughly USD $2,400 at today’s rates) every month would pay a little less than 20%, but a richer person would have to pay more.

V.D. What would be the starting figure for that property tax?

J.O. It would start at 3,000 million pesos (roughly USD $684,000 at today’s rates).

V.D. Have you forgiven Rudolf Hommes, who told SEMANA that you were his enemy?

J.O. I have said that I have never been his enemy.

V.D. You give me the impression that it’s nothing contentious. Why would he say that?

J.O. I have some points of view that are different from his, but not even in all areas. At times we have been in agreement, for example, on the subject of property concentration, which was an issue for him when I met him in the ‘80’s.

V.D. Were you surprised when he called you an “enemy”?

J.O. Totally. I have never thought I was his enemy.

V.D. When people say you are a leftist, are they right?

J.O. I am center left; that’s what I’ve always been. Everybody knows that; I’m a social democrat.

V.D. And in economics, how would you define your vision?

J.O. There are two traditions of economic thinking that have influenced me. One is the school of the Cepal[3], which in our jargon we call Latin American structuralism, and the other is the Keynesian, even the version that’s a little farther to the left.

We believe more in government intervention, in the importance of equity; that it is an essential objective of economic and not just social policy.

V. D. When are we going to be back to having 3% inflation?

J. O. That is a task that is a little bit slower. But I think that we are at the peak of inflation now.

V.D. It’s not going to go any higher?

J.O. No. We’re going to start to go down.

V.D. When will we be around 3% again?

J.O. I don’t know. In two years at least, or even much longer.

V.D. With interest rates at 9%, the Bank of the Republic says that those can’t go higher. Do you agree?

J.O. That would have been a little more prudent. But, in fact, seven people voted in the last board meeting for a raise of 100 points base, meaning one percentage point and not 1.5 percentage points. And I’m telling you I would have voted for that. But, well, it was defeated and I suspect it was Minister Restrepo that voted that way . . .

V.D. Why do you say that?

J.O. I don’t know, because the vote was secret, but I suspect that. I do have a firm vision: it’s that the Bank of the Republic has to raise interest rates and it did that because, when everybody is raising interest rates, if they wouldn’t have done it, capital would have left Colombia.

They had to raise the rates, but how much? That is the argument and, most of all, for the transitory effect, moderated in my judgment because of the origin of the inflation, and that it was based on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That’s an area that’s not under the control of any Colombian authority. Furthermore, what’s really going to happen is that it’s going to start affecting economic activity and employment, same as what is happening all over the world with the high rates of interest.

You have to remember that the Constitution states clearly that monetary policy has to be coordinated with the general economic policy, and, with regard to that principle, the Constitutional Court in 1999 issued a very important decision, holding that the Bank of the Republic may not ignore monetary policy, employment, and economic activity.

V.D. What does that mean? That the Bank of the Republic is independent but it has to work together with the government?

J.O. It has to work in coordination with the government; that’s what the Constitution says, and therefore, there is a really tight way of working between the Finance Ministry and the Bank of the Republic, in particularly close coordination.

V.D. Speaking of the Bank of the Republic, in the midst of the pandemic, in his campaign, the now-President Petro said that the Bank ought to issue currency. That generated a great scandal. Is it possible?

J.O. The truth is that now that he’s elected, I’ve never heard him say that.

V.D. Do you agree with something like that.

J.O. Never. That is a harmful monetary practice. There are ways of issuance that the Bank of the Republic does normally, buying titles and issuing pesos, buying dollars and issuing pesos; those are normal practices. But the monetary policy has to be consistent with economic sustainability.

V.D. And not a policy of issuing currency so that there will be more cash in the market?

J.O. No. In every one of the countries where they have done that, the fruit has been economic disaster.

V.D. A failure . . .

J.O. It creates massive inflation that ends up in every kind of problem.

V.D. When you tell the Bank of the Republic that it has to coordinate with the government, won’t it feel that its independence is being threatened?

J. O. No.

V.D. No?

J.O. No. You have to remember that the government is the authority there. The Bank of the Republic is not the one that regulates finance in Colombia, the government does that.

V.D. There was a commotion among the artists, especially in the movie sector, because they fear that with the end of the orange economy, the benefits that the Duque administration gave them will be terminated.

J.O. The orange economy is one thing, and the movie sector is another. The orange economy stopped providing benefits to the hotel, transportation sectors, etc., but not to the industry of culture. I’m in favor of supporting that and, if we are mistaken in our proposal in the area of the movie sector, I have said that we will correct the mistake.

V.D. Did you just admit that you were wrong?

J.O. We are going to be analyzing this more closely. We won’t disrupt the movie industry.

V.D. Why didn’t they accept the Culture Minister’s proposal to impose a tax on cell phone lines?

J.O. That really didn’t make much sense.

V.D. If there is anything that’s irritating, it’s paying taxes when other people aren’t paying them. How are you going to catch the tax evaders?

J.O. Itotallyagree. Wearegoingtostrengthentheregulationsto penalize the evaders. We didn’t include criminal penalties because of the constitutional rules that require us to consult with a committee. But we will include criminal penalties in the debate.

V.D. Prison.

J.O. Yes, prison for tax evaders.

V.D. And what are you going to do to see that that doesn’t go overboard and be used politically against the opposition?

J.O. I don’t think that in this area there is any possibility of a political-type distortion.

V.D. Which exemptions are going to be removed?

J.O. Wow, lots of them. For example, for the hotel business, just one of the many other exemptions that will be removed.

V.D. And are you really going to remove the exemptions for the rich?

J.O. In the income tax, yes. The blockage of tax benefits there is complete. There will be no additional benefits for those that earn 10 million pesos (roughly USD $2,400 at today’s rates) every month.

V.D. The rich will pay more?

J.O. Yes.

V.D. What are you telling them?

J.O. That they will be contributing to social development in Colombia. It will be better for them to have a country at peace, with social peace.

V.D. Are you worried about the dollar or not?

J.O. No. What happened with the dollar was because of international events that affected many countries. There’s no reason to be scared about that.

V.D. What do you say to the people that are betting that the economy is going to collapse?

J.O. We are continuing to have complete confidence. In a certain sense, to make myself clear, I’m part of what’s generating confidence in the administration.

V.D. We are growing at a rate of 6% this year, and it’s expected that next year it will be at 2%. Some people think that the tax reform could affect growth. Could that happen?

J.O. The tax reform favors people with low incomes, and that also favors consumption. So it’s not clear that there will be any effect on growth.

V.D. Are you more Samperista or Petrista? Or more Petrista than Samperista.

J.O I’ve been a traditional liberal, a social-democratic liberal.

V.D. And are you a Petrista?

J.O. I’m part of the national alliance that Gustavo Petro has put together.

V.D. But do you consider yourself Petrista?

J.O. Well, I’m in the Petro administration and we are going to work with President Petro. It’s a broad alliance and, as I said when I accepted my appointment, I am part of the national alliance.

V.D. You associate him with the President of Chile, Gabriel Boric.

J.O. I signed some statements in his favor, but I don’t know him personally. I would like to have the opportunity to meet him now that he is in office.

V.D. And you weren’t able to?

J.O. No. Curiously, they didn’t let the Ministers go into the place where he was.

V.D. That couldn’t be!

J.O. Yes, there was a line. First the ambassadors and then the ministers.

V.D. Another story they’re throwing in your face is that you were responsible for the economic crisis that was generated in the Samper administration.

J.O. Look, the economic crisis happened in 1999. The fiscal deficit that I left was less than 20% of GDP, that is, one third of the current level. So, when they tell me the crisis was my fault . . . Besides, there was a complicated issue in 1998, and I remember telling my successor: don’t defend the exchange rate; let it float, so that interest rates don’t rise. That, in my judgment, was the mistake, but in 1998 I was no longer in the administration.

V.D. Then whose mistake was it?

J.O. I think it was the Bank of the Republic at that time.

V.D. Which Pastrana later had to deal with.

J.O.  So, later Pastrana had to . . .

V.D. Or maybe, really Pastrana got that business from the Samper administration?

J.O. That was something that happened in the transition. So don’t accuse me of being at fault for the crisis of 1999.

V.D. Like the kids say, don’t look at me?

J.O. Don’t look at me.

V.D. Former Senator Jorge Robledo says that this is a very regressive tax reform bill.

J.O. But it’s super-progressive. It’s by far the most progressive tax

reform bill in the history of Colombia.

V.D. Won’t there be any more tax reforms in this administration?

J.O. Not at the beginning, no.

V.D. Who is the best economist in Colombia?

J.O. I have no opinion on that.

V.D. Why not?

J.O. I think I am among the best. I don’t want to make any comparison. I think there are many good economists in Colombia.

V.D. Being Finance Minister is difficult. Why are you doing it again?

J.O. It’s a feeling of patriotism. A lot of people have said to me, “Accept, accept, accept.” I felt that it was my responsibility.

V.D. You’ve turned yourself into a kind of security, isn’t that right?

J.O. I think that for President Petro I exactly represented a good mixture of a responsible economist and the thinking that the social policy has to be more active and that we have to seek greater equity. He had offered me the Finance Ministry in his previous campaign, four years ago.

V.D. And you waited four years?

J.O. I have a leave for one year, and I do want to go back to my university. They can give me more leave. We’ll see.

V.D. But not for four years, you’ll be fired.

J.O. I can’t do four years. In fact, the longest leave for a university in the United States is two years.

V.D. Did you like the proposal regarding external debt that President Petro made on the day of his inauguration?

J.O. That proposal is the subject of debate internationally. It was used in the ‘80’s at the end of the Latin America debt crisis. It seems very reasonable. And I think that the proposal is workable.

V.D. Have you learned already that to be Finance Minister you have to know how much an egg costs?

J.O. (Laughing).

V.D. Have you already learned that lesson?

J.O. Yes, but not. . .

V.D. I’m not going to ask you how much an egg costs.

J.O. (Laughing).

V.D. You aren’t going to show me, it must be a lot, Mr. Minister.

J.O.  Nooooo. . .

V.D. Just a little bit for the pastries? Look, now a lot of the pastries are going to have to pay taxes, so take care of them. Bye Mr. Minister, Thank you.

J.O.  (Laughter).

[1] Dian is Colombia’s  National Directorate of Taxes and Customs.

[2] IVA is Colombia’s value-added tax.

[3] Cepal is the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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