By Salomón Kalmanovitz, EL ESPECTADOR, February 12, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Petro administration’s National Development Plan bears the suggestive, and at the same time, confusing title of “Colombia, a World Power for Life”. Perhaps it suggests that the country eventually will have admirable conditions for long, happy lives for its entire population and low rates of homicides and feminicides, the consequence of radically diminishing criminality.

The text explains that it means a process that is barely beginning: it tries to “lay the foundation for the country to be converted to a leader in the protection of life through building a new social contract that will enable the surmounting of historic injustices and exclusion, the no repetition of the conflict, the change in our ways of relating to the environment, and a productive transformation based on understanding and harmony with nature.”

If such a future is desirable, the reality of the present is overpowering:

The rate of homicides in Colombia is nearly 26 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Europe it’s 3 per 100,000 inhabitants and in the violent United States it’s 7 per 100,000 inhabitants. We also have very high rates of feminicide, and organized crime and drug trafficking have been ravaging our country for 40 years. We have known how to devastate nature in systematic ways by regional powers without interference, and not just by them but also by millions of squatters displaced from the most populous centers in the country.

The Plan proposes that “the transformations will be carried out using the land as a starting point. That means that its ordering will be done around the water.” It means reducing carbon emissions that are poisoning the planet, even though Colombia is a very marginal agent in that sense, because of its economic and industrial backwardness. Inclusion will come through progress in agrarian reform and the increase in public expenditures that will be rolled out over the poorest sector of the society.

It will try to make a “transformation of productive organizations, in a way that clean and biodiverse economies can replace the intensive production by the use of coal.” It will replace combustion engines with electric. That is easier to write than to do.

The work of carrying out the Development Plan is huge: it fills 525 pages, not counting attachments. It’s a detailed analysis of the macroeconomics of the country and its prospects, and also for each of its sectors.

The taxes they calculate that they can collect exceed 19% of the GDP in 2022 to nearly 23% in 2026, four times as much as was collected in earlier reforms of the tax system, no matter how ambitious those were. The result will only be known when companies and citizens pay our taxes in mid-year.

All of the economic projections launched in the Plan are optimistic; agricultural income will increase 0.4% in 2023, but will jump to 6% in 2026; industrial income, from 1.1% in 2023 to 5.8% (with protection?); tourism from 2.7% to 6.8%, and construction from 0.6% to 5.6%. All will be possible with the power of desire.

The Colombian countryside is huge, and the government has never been able to control it or administer it, leaving that task to local officials who have taxes at their disposal that don’t bring in much: property taxes, which are substantial in the big cities, but irrelevant in small cities and rural areas, vice taxes (liquor, tobacco, and raffles), that bring in less and less. The central government hopes to raise more with its reform, and it will probably be able to send a larger amount of transfers to the surrounding areas than in the past, but things are going to change less than is hoped.

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