EL TIEMPO, February 8, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Transformation of the Police and changes in appraisal of property are some of the points that will be debated.

With the National Development Plan for 2022-2026, introduced Monday by the administration and that will be considered until next May 7, the President has now made clear which paths he wants to take. The document establishes the goals for the four years and is subject to Congressional approval.

The Plan, made up of 166 pages with 300 articles and with 321 pages of background and authorities, proposes important changes from what is being done now in different sectors. Some of them have already been announced, like the case of health care resource management, a matter in which the EPS are lowered in the projected reform of the sector that is being worked on right now, or the changes in the organization of the Police.

Other issues, on the contrary, have come as a surprise. The creation of a universal record of income for everyone to declare their income is among those that stand out. The government would have access to confidential information about it.

There are also questions about the alternative uses of the coca and cannabis plants, along with other concerns about the extraordinary authority the President would have for a period of six months.

On the subject of the environment, the government would underwrite 30-year removable concessions with campesino families for the administration of the forest reserves. And in Bogotá, Mayor Claudia López called it “extraordinary” that the President did not include the metro as a strategic project.

EL TIEMPO collected some of the most challenging issues and where argument may be expected in different areas.

Another Truth Commission and changes in the organization of the National Police

In the matter of the justice system, the Development Plan proposes the creation of a “nonjudicial mechanism for the contribution of truth and historical memory” (Article 12), with functions that would be similar to those of the Truth Commission created by the Peace Agreement with the FARC.

It also provides in Article 50 a new architecture for the Police, transferring it from the Defense Ministry to a civilian organization, and the authorities given President Gustavo Petro to regulate the special custody conditions of members of the indigenous villages and communities, in accord with the text formally registered after a prior consultation.

Extraordinary authority is also provided for the President to regulate “alternative uses for the coca and cannabis plants”, as well as the definition of the medicinal, therapeutic, and scientific purposes of the psychoactive substances.

The Plan seeks to create a setting for interaction between the government and the JEP to facilitate carrying out the sanctions that the JEP imposes, and it creates a National System to Search for People That Have Disappeared in the context of and because of the conflict, including the victims of forced disappearance.

Special actions for titling land and formulation of new anti-drug policies

In line with what President Gustavo Petro has said since the beginning of his term, the Plan includes in Article 154 the adoption of “a new national drug policy” with a projection of ten years and regulation that is “fair and responsible”.

It doesn’t mention anything about the changes on mechanisms of extradition.

Meanwhile, in paragraph 3 of Article 42, the Plan establishes encouragement for “a special titling activity for property possession” for an individual subject to social regulation of rural property, “the public, peaceful, and uninterrupted incorporated possession, for three years, of a rural home as private property”.

It makes clear that that cannot happen in cases where there has been land theft in the armed conflict, except when it’s in favor of a victim who claims land restitution. The document also proposes an “improvement” in land purchasing from the government.

For this purpose, it points out that entities “can contract directly through a pattern or method from Public-Private Associations with popular economy sections, community and social action boards, or other forms of social organizations, groups, and ethnic communities”.

Creation of the Universal Income Registry

A proposal in the Plan would require every person, no matter their income, to make their income known (which does not mean payment).  That information would allow the creation of “the Universal Register of Incomes (RUI in Spanish). The Register would be administered by the National Planning Department, with the purpose of determining the focusing of subsidies, programs, policies, plans, projects, and services to be offered”, according to Article 55.

On the economic side, there is also Article 53 that creates the transfer in kind, “Zero Hunger”, which would “consist of furnishing resources in kind to guarantee the human right of food for the population in situations of poverty and extreme poverty”.

In Mining, through Article 186, the government seeks to prohibit “development of new projects for the extraction of thermal coal in large scale open pit mines,” in order to promote the path to decarbonization in the regions.

“Zero Garbage” and the San Juan de Diós Hospital will go back to the bargaining table because of the PND

One of the points in President Petro’s PND is Article 298, which provides him with extraordinary authorities for six months, so as to set public policies in motion, including one oriented toward the restoration of the San Juan de Diós Hospital.

Although the document does not detail the President’s plan for the hospital, his idea is to avoid the demolition of the central tower—the Management Plan now in effect would permit it to be torn down—and to restore all the sections of the hospital. To that effect, the administration seeks to “acquire title, free or for valuable consideration, to the infrastructure of the San Juan de Diós Hospital”, and also to “create a public entity (. . .) that would use it to furnish health care services.”

Another old wish that is in the Plan, in Article 128, is the creation of a “Zero Garbage” program, which he tried to apply in Bogotá when he was the Mayor. Its objective, according to Petro, is to pay the recyclers, lower the trash collection costs, and reduce burying solid waste in open pits.

Finally, it doesn’t include any mention of the two Metro lines, a situation that generated criticism by Mayor Claudia López. The administration had responded by saying that it was not in the document because they “are financed by future operations.”

The EPS are eliminated from being in charge of paying the hospitals, and the executive department will assume that role

In the health care sector, the Plan takes on matters that, as far as we know, will be included in the health care reform initiative that is being worked on right now.

In Article 125 the administration states that “the Resources Administrator of the General System of Social Security in Health (ADRES in Spanish), in the name of the Health Promotion Entities (EPS) and other Entities Required to be Compensated, will handle the direct payment of funds from the Capitation Payment Units (UPC in Spanish) for the contribution and subsidy regulations.”

That means the administration will stop turning to the EPS to pay the hospitals and, instead, they will begin to pay the hospitals directly.

That Article has been criticized because, according to experts, it will be the beginning of the end of the EPS.

With regard to that, former Health Minister Beatríz Londoño stated that it’s workable for the Article to be in the PND and that it was something that previous administrations had already proposed. However, she questioned the administration’s capacity to take on that role.

“At no time is this Article saying that ADRES ((Health Care Social Security Resources) will be the payer or will audit, but rather that it will broaden its role as the entity in charge of making the payments. We have to keep in mind whether ADRES is capable of carrying out that function,” Londoño emphasized.

Funds for water and for environmental justice

Regarding the environment, one of the proposals that has aroused the most attention is in Article 41, which would allow the government to “agree with campesino families and organizations for concessions renewable for up to 30 years,” to administer the forest reserves and uncultivated land belonging to the government.

With respect to those funds, the specific destination of the 28.8 billón pesos (roughly USD $5,883,000,000 at today’s exchange rates) which, according to Article 5, will finance the ordering of the territory around the water, and also environmental justice, is not yet clear.

In education, the experts consulted by EL TIEMPO warned that the goals (making the PAE (School Nutrition Program) universal, broadening coverage for early childhood to 800,000 children, and increasing university capacity, among other things) are very ambitious and the means of achieving them are not specified.

The science sector warns of the absence of basic sciences in policies for research and innovation oriented toward missions (Article 174). For experts in this field, the proposal for a framework of investment in research and development (Article 21) makes no sense when it can’t count on sufficient funding; the Science Ministry now has the lowest asset allocation in the whole General Budget for the country.

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