As if the future of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation in the country were not dark enough today, a new voice is now appearing in the high government: that of the director of the National Planning Department, Jorge Iván González.

Philosopher from the Javeriana University, he has a master’s degree in Economics from the Universidad de los Andes and a PhD in Economics from the Catholic University of Louvain, in Belgium, where President Petro was also born.

The senior official opens the dialogue, answering the following question:

Can Colombia do without the resources that produce oil and coal?

All countries agree on the decarbonization of the planet. But the truth is that Colombia cannot stop depending on the income that oil, coal and gas produce.

Is the impact of coal and oil production in Colombia on the planet’s environment very important?

The participation that Colombia has in environmental damage is minimal. It has a very small incidence. The point is that we have all the potential, such as rivers, moors and jungles… and these assets can be used by planet Earth to compensate for environmental damage. That is the change in discourse that both President Petro and President Lula of Brazil are trying to make. In the hands of our two countries is much of the future environmental protection of the Earth.

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But can our country stop depending on oil and coal?

Colombia cannot end its dependence on oil, gas, and coal from one moment to the next. Dependency reduction should be a process. About 60 percent of the country’s exports are oil and coal, and this structure cannot change suddenly. It should be a progressive exercise.

We are facing an irony: we promote decarbonization, but at the same time we admit that Colombia cannot survive without coal, without gas and, above all, without oil…

And neither does the world. The energy transformation is a challenge for everyone.

Stopping depending on oil, gas and coal is not a utopia?

It is clear that this cannot be done immediately. It’s progressive. Little by little…

What does ‘little by little’ mean? Suspend, for example, the exploration?

No, what the Government has said is that we look carefully at the contracts that have already been signed, so that we analyze those contracts and see what the potential is. It may be that in one of them we find gigantic wells and the discussion about exploration is over.

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«The reality of the last days that we are living shows that the capitalism that developed in the last 30 years is not capable of stopping the climate crisis» was one of the phrases pronounced by President Petro in Davos, Switzerland, at the Economic Forum World…

The President is referring to unregulated capitalism, not capitalism in general. There are many examples of regulating, such as sanctions for consumption with environmental damage, punishment for deforestation and incentives for the protection of moors such as Chingaza. We should give each peasant household in Sumapaz three minimum wages so that they do not plant potatoes again or have cattle. For these decisions to be taken, it is enough for the State to have a conscience favorable to environmental protection. The President’s phrase is a call for us, as a State, to intervene.

Are those solutions that you mention included in the Development Plan?

The Development Plan insists on the importance of territorial ordering, of energy transformation. The plan warns of unacceptable facts. For example, extensive livestock farming is very harmful. It is unusual that we have one cow per acre! That doesn’t make any sense. If we delimit the wastelands and wastelands well, we can define clearer forms of regulation.

What is the ideal?

From the point of view of subsidies and targeting, the ideal is for us to have a universal income statement that makes it possible to differentiate who pays taxes and who receives subsidies. In this way we avoid the problems that stratification has and inclusion errors are corrected, such as giving a subsidy to a person who does not need it. We are aware that this is a very complicated and slow process. We affirm as Planning that we have to move progressively towards mechanisms that allow everyone to declare income and, in this way, we avoid the troubles that the stratum has.

But that is an idealism… It is philosophy…

No. At this time, Planeación has a large amount of information on people in the social registry, including 33 million who are part of Sisbén IV. The social registry is not a universal declaration of income, but it is a very important input to move in that direction.

And what are we up to with the creation of the multipurpose cadastre?

The multipurpose cadastre is another dynamic that allows specifying the titles and the real size of the properties. There is a lot of informality in the definition of the areas. Many of the rural properties are limited by a river, a stone or a tree. With the multipurpose cadastre, you arrive with a team that has technical georeferencing instruments and can accurately determine the coordinates of the property. This is a necessary process because we estimate that 65 percent of rural properties do not have a title.

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What percentage of our land has a legal cadastre?

Only 9.4 percent. We have 90 percent without multipurpose cadastre. This shortage is brutal, because the modernization of the agricultural sector depends on it. If there is no cadastre, there is no land market and the sector will continue to fall behind.

And then what to do?

The cadastre is one of the Government’s priorities. National Planning has a very good team to prepare the subject of cadastre and the methodology. This activity is being carried out jointly with the Agustín Codazzi Institute.

Is the development plan you propose about buying land?

That is what we are doing with the Minister of Agriculture. You cannot buy land of poor quality or without tertiary roads. There is a chapter of the plan that we have called ‘Human right to food’.

The main agricultural problem is that we are importing almost 12 million tons of food…

This situation must be changed. The issue of hunger is very complicated.

What percentage of the population in Colombia has extreme poverty?

Extreme poverty is 12.2 percent.

And in a state of poverty in general?

Depoverty is 39.3 percent. Extreme poverty means that income is less than 161,099 pesos per month per person. General poverty is 354,031 pesos per month per person.

How much does a household of 4 people need to eat?

It would be 644,396 pesos.

We are going through a catastrophic situation…

it is certainly very difficult. With the pandemic, poverty skyrocketed.

And what to do now?

Promote urban and rural employment. Employment in all dimensions. The mismanagement of the oil and mining boom in previous governments turned us into a gigantic Sanandresito. We do not use the boom to import tractors and improve agricultural productivity, but we spend it on importing food such as corn and we destroy the agricultural productive apparatus.

But then, what is the point of substituting or promoting the substitution of what produces the most income for Colombia, such as oil, gas and coal, precisely when 34 percent of the population suffers from poverty?

That cannot be done from one moment to the next. If you close oil and coal exports, you increase the devaluation and make imported food more expensive.

But we also have another problem. Unprecedented inflation…

In addition to the global shortage crisis, one of the reasons for inflation is that we do not produce food. What we are experiencing is the consequence of an economic policy that allowed the destructuring of agricultural production.

But what does the Bank of the Republic do? One of two, either it lacks more functions or it is failing in the only one it has, which is to control inflation…

What happens is that the central banks of the world ran out of instruments. I believe that it is not only the problem of the Colombian central bank. In desperation, the only thing central banks can do is move the interest rate and by raising it they cause a recession.

They ran out of what kind of instruments?

Instruments to control inflation. The international situation is unprecedented. Capital markets are increasingly volatile and are fueled by huge balances of public debt in most countries. Faced with this scenario, central banks have lost room for manoeuvre.

So what do we do to combat inflation?

At this juncture, the only way for Colombia to combat inflation is to produce food. There is no point in continuing to raise the interest rate. This way the problem is not solved.

But if you don’t raise interest rates, you cause capital flight from rising rates in the United States…

That’s the drama. We depend on what the Federal Reserve Bank does.

Are you in favor of increasing the functions of the central bank in Colombia?

The central bank, already by Constitution, has to look at employment and growth. That topic should be more explicit. Not only must it structure a monetary policy against inflation, but it must also consider the effects it has on growth and employment.

Are we in a no-win situation?

No. We are in a difficult situation, but we have a way out. The Development Plan will propose to the country a structural solution that is land use planning, water, agricultural production, energy reform and social and regional convergence.

What is the structural reform that the land use plan will propose?

It includes various topics such as the articulation of land use plans (POT). For example, that Bogotá’s ordering is harmonized with that of neighboring municipalities. Now there is no joint. I give you examples: that La Calera does not eat the hills. That Chía does not urbanize where there should be respect for rural areas. It is not possible that territories as rich as Magdalena Medio have such poor populations. It is not acceptable that territories as rich as La Guajira have populations in misery. That is what the Development Plan says. The main problem in Colombia today is land use planning.

Why the main problem?

Because there, in spatiality, the great problems of productivity, food, roads, violence, and peace are concentrated. The issue of life is a problem of territorial ordering. The floods and the landslide of Rosas are a land use planning problem. The country requires high surgery. And that will be what the Development Plan will propose.

Special for EL TIEMPO