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Banking

Colombia: Echeverry leaves his post all guns blazing

With Juan Carlos Echeverry’s August departure, Latin America has lost one of its most effective finance ministers. And certainly its most combative. Just days before the news broke that he had lost his job, Euromoney met him in Bogotá to hear his uncompromising views on sustaining Colombia’s recent growth. The only unanswered question: did he know what was to come?

Juan Carlos Echeverry was not an ordinary finance minister. Euromoney met him on August 10 in what was to be his last in-depth interview with a foreign journalist.

Ordinarily, Echeverry eschews the delicacies of diplomatic language, and this was no exception. He betrayed no obvious signs that his tenure at the finance ministry was coming to an end, but if he did know (as the official version of the resignation would have us believe) then his statements were more unguarded than usual.

With Echeverry, though, it is hard to tell. For example, this is Echeverry on the previous system of concessions: "It created a carousel of corruption." The squandering of oil royalty revenues during the past 15 years is "a crime for Colombia" with provincial governors, who were previously in sole control of royalties guilty of "stupidity" (a charge he backs up with clear-cut examples, including a swimming pool built in the oil-rich province of Meta with an indoor wave machine; at exorbitant cost in an area "where there are no kids").

 

The new system of governance for royalties "follows Adam Smith – no matter how bad these guys are, you need an institution to make them good".

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