On November 21st, Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro met in Cartagena with the country’s most influential businesspeople. The backdrop of the meeting was to involve the business sector in the National Agreement, a comprehensive State pact the government is advancing with various political, social, and economic sectors to agree on its proposed reforms.
In Cartagena were bankers Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo and Luis Carlos Sarmiento Gutiérrez, leaders of Grupo Aval; Carlos Julio Ardila, head of the Ardila Lülle Organization, owner of Postobón, Incauca, and RCN Radio and Television. Also present were Alejandro Santo Domingo and Carlos Alejandro Pérez, from Grupo Valorem, owners of Caracol television channel, El Espectador newspaper, Blu Radio, and D1 stores; Pedro Carvajal, president of Grupo Carvajal, along with Harold Eder from sugar company Manuelita; César Caicedo from Colombina; Carlos Eduardo Pacheco and Luisa Pacheco from Grupo Colpatria, and Carlos Enrique Cavelier from dairy producer La Alquería.
During the meeting, the President addressed issues impacting the financial, production, media, food industry, construction, and infrastructure sectors. This encounter marked the first significant event of a week with important dialogues involving sectors that differ from the government’s political views.
Building a National Agreement
“This is the first meeting with the most developed business groups in the country. We’re working on a national agreement on topics such as education, productivity, productive land development, empowerment of the popular economy, financial inclusion, and territorial inclusion with emphasis on Colombia’s Pacific region, La Guajira, and the Orinoquía,” stated the Colombian President.
While the exact terms of the discussions or concrete agreements have not been disclosed, it’s certain that topics like the economic crisis affecting the country, with elevated inflation and negative economic growth threatening a feared recession, were addressed. Productivity and ways to foster economic growth were also discussed.
At the government’s request, the dialogue included proposals aimed at addressing inequality in access to opportunities, including relevant and quality education, environmental preservation, business development, productive projects involving rural areas, and the pursuit of peace, among others.
Petro stressed that the government’s proposed path involves productivity to advance social transformations, addressing historical needs in favor of the most vulnerable communities while generating wealth and fostering economic growth.
Significance of the Meeting
Although concrete agreements didn’t emerge from the meeting, its mere occurrence is already a success. It’s important to note that President Petro has had differences and clashes with representatives of the country’s economic leadership due to his proposals for social reforms, which might affect some private businesses, particularly in sectors such as health or pensions, owned by some attendees of the Cartagena meeting.
Colombia’s presidency met with the country’s most important businesspeople a day before the meeting with former President Álvaro Uribe and other members of the conservative Centro Democrático party, the party with which the government holds significant ideological differences.
This series of meetings aim to find ways to reduce tensions and build a complex National Agreement. “We’ve invited the businesspeople to build the foundation for what could be a great national agreement (…), trying to establish common objectives that allow us to put Colombia on the path to peace and the development of a profound democracy,” explained the President.
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Gustavo Petro emphasized the need to continue building permanent dialogues with the entire business community.