News Column

Colombian President Says Security Made 2012 'Good Year'

Jan 3, 2013

Colombian Office of the President website, Bogota, in Spanish 2 Jan 13

Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday, Jan. 2, that 2012 was a good year on many social and economic fronts, thanks to security.

"As such, we have ended a good year, but I repeat, this was only possible with the key ingredient, having more security," the head of state said in his first public appearance of 2013, which was to add 1,000 men to Cali's Metropolitan Police.

The president highlighted progress in the fight against poverty, increasing employment, low inflation, better infrastructure, and control of the fiscal deficit, and he warned that the figures refute the analysts' critiques.

He maintained that in terms of employment, Colombia is "one of the few countries worldwide that may say that over the last 29 months the number of people employed has been increasing, month after month, without a single interruption."

"But how curious, inflation will end up being about 2.5 per cent," he said. "And the unemployment rate, the last figure we have, is a number less than 9 per cent," he said.

He said that he had the goal of reducing extreme poverty to a single digit by the end of four years, and that probably that goal would be met sooner.

"It is an achievement that the whole world is talking about: Look at what is happening in Colombia; look how that economy is growing more than the regional average, of course more than the world average; look how that economy is investing in social spending, is investing in infrastructure and still it is reducing the fiscal deficit; look how that economy with low inflation has relatively high growth," he added.

He referred to the comments that had been made about the government, that "it is a government that spends too much; it is a government that does not save."

"But how curious! We will end, or are ending this year with a fiscal deficit - meaning, income minus spending - with the lowest deficit in a long time. Much lower than what we had last year, much lower than how we finished the previous year, and much lower than what this government received," he said.

He underlined that the fiscal deficit for this year is almost zero, meaning that, "for the first time we will have some surplus."

He added that "the tax reform that Congress passed was not a reform to bring in more revenue; it was a reform to achieve more equity, more social employment, more formal employment."

As for the economy, he emphasized that a few days ago the country hit the mark of 1 million barrels of oil produced daily.

"In terms of infrastructure, as the engine that is not advancing. Not advancing? When we have done the greatest amount of investment in Colombia's history. To name but one figure, last year we paved 200 km of four-lane roads," he added.

He clarified that this figure is twice the amount of the previous year, and announced that 300 km of four-lane roads would be paved this year, which is almost the amount that Spain achieved in its heyday.

The president also praised the rate of execution for works, and said, "We ended the year with the greatest execution in the past 10 years: 97.3 percent of the commitments."

He also referred to the passage of free trade agreements such as those signed with the United States and the European Union, the consolidation of the Pacific Alliance, and the elimination of visas for Colombians by several countries.

He also said that the Families in Action programme added 300,000 beneficiary families and the Youth in Action programme has just started to encourage [young people] staying in school.

He also emphasized that access to free public education for children and youths in Colombia, from grade zero to grade 11, is now a reality, as well as the programme to improve the quality of education.

"In which security is a fundamental ingredient," the president of the republic concluded, and added, "That is why this year, once again, our great aim has to be: To keep improving."

Source: (C) 2013 BBC Monitoring Americas. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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