CNN interviews President Juan Manuel Santos as he tells Europe and the United States “Your disorder is affecting us,”
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN: Colombia’s had a number of security issues through the years. It has improved on that front. So what happens next? Indonesia, a great population of 240 million consumers, but, again, are they going to create wealth fast enough to boost growth and per capita income over the next 10 years?
Well, a guest of Richard Quest seems to think so. He’s the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos. He sat down with Richard to look at the growth of emerging markets.
COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT, JUAN MANUEL SANTOS: Other than our very strong economies that have a very good future, right now, because of the political problems, Egypt is in a sort of a limbo. But, for example, Turkey, I was with the president of Turkey last Friday.
And we spoke about how Turkish — and this is (inaudible). The Turkish president and I, in the year 2001, he was prime minister, I was minister of finance, and both countries, it had the worst economic situation and crisis in a hundred years. We had to take very harsh measures, both of us.
And today, Turkey is growing at 8 percent. Colombia is growing almost 5 percent, almost 6 percent, might be growing a bit higher. And we are coming to Europe — the Turkish president is in London at this very moment. And that we are telling the Europeans and the United States and the Japan, please do what you told us to do 10 years ago.
DFTERIOS: That’s, again, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. You can hear more of CNN’s interview with the Colombian president. Stay tuned for “QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.” That’s in about two hours from now, right here, of course, on CNN, where you can actually see Richard himself. You didn’t get a chance to see him during that interview.
Quest Means Business
RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: The message is “Please do what you told us to do 10 years ago. Do what you say.” That’s the message from Colombia’s president to the U.S. and Europe. Juan Manuel Santos says these countries and continents need to put their financial house in order. Otherwise, he sees an economic hurricane sweeping the industrialized world.
Colombia is very much in a position to wag the finger, expected to grow 5.5 percent this year, even though the South American country didn’t make the BRIC, our BRIC’s club of emerging economies.
It’s now in the so-called CIVETS group, which, of course, as you’ll be well familiar, is Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. And, interestingly, Turkey, South Africa is now in both CIVETS and BRICs. But we’re sticking with CIVETS, particularly with Colombia.
I sat down with the president and started by asking him what advice he would give the U.S. and Europe.
COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS: We’re saying what they said to us 10 years ago, put your house in order because your disorder is affecting us. Take the decisions that are necessary. Have the political will and the political capacity to take unpopular decisions but necessary decisions because you’re going to affect the whole world if you continue with this uncertainty.
QUEST: What is your fear? Is it that you won’t have export markets? Is it the Brazilian fear of a currency appreciation? What is Colombia’s fear if the U.S., particularly, and the E.U., doesn’t get its act together?
SANTOS: All of the above. First, they don’t get their act together and they try to get out of the recession through monetary policy and creating money, that money will not stay because that money will go after a better return that we are having.
And so they will appreciate our currencies and create unemployment and hurt our competitiveness. Also, they don’t grow, we still export the majority of our products to Europe, to the United States, to Japan, to the industrialized countries and the export might go down.
I’m not so sure what is going to happen with the commodities, the price of commodities because that’s going to a different phenomenon.
QUEST: The other countries, the U.S. and the E.U., they’re not listening, are they? I mean, you can be as diplomatic as you like, Mr. President. But the reality is before the G-20, we had a G-20 FinMin meeting, where they were given a warning. We had the G-20 in Cannes. We’ve just had the failure of the super committee. You’ve got the failure of the E.U. process.
SANTOS: You’re right. They’re not — they’re not hearing or they’re hearing, they’re not capable of delivering. I think it’s more the latter. They’re hearing. And they know that they need to take tough decisions. But this is a crisis that has a big political element there.
QUEST: As I look at your economic situation at the moment, in the short and medium — and maybe even in the long term, the cards are in your favor. You’ve got robust growth. But you have only got growth — and I say only — of 5.5 percent. Is that sufficient for an emerging economy like yours?
SANTOS: Yes, we — in our national economic (ph) development plan, we set of a goal of about 5 percent year-over-year, and we made all our accounts using a 5 percent growth. With that, we can finance the infrastructure we need.
We can finance the social investment that we need. Of course, we would hope for higher growth, and we are aiming at a bit — a bit higher. But the minimum is 5 percent to be able to attain our objectives.
QUEST: Obviously, security is a key emphasis of any leader. But your emphasis is primarily on building a Colombia that is economically sound and stable.
SANTOS: I say that my plan, my national plan has three words: more employment, former (ph) employment, less poverty and more security. And we’re going in the right direction. For example, Colombia has created, in the last 13 months, 1,085,000 jobs. No other country in the region has done this.
And we’re creating jobs at a high rate. This is extremely important for us. We’re taking out of extreme poverty 350,000 families, which we have already identified. We have them in a computer. There are needs (ph) and we’re, item by item, doing this. We need to have growth, but with social — with a social emphasis because Colombia and all Latin America (ph) were unequal countries (ph).
QUEST: So, finally, Mr. President, as you look at your agenda with those three pillars, what could send it all wrong? What’s your biggest worry?
SANTOS: I would say the — an international crisis, another recession, could slow (ph) our growth and put us in trouble in — obtain very ambitious objectives. But on — in general, we’re quite well protected. Our reserves are very high. Our financial system is very sound. We have low inflation. Our internal demand is strong. We are covered to a point.
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