Colombian presidential election to decide country’s economic future

Global Business

Colombians are set to vote for a new president on May 27, in an election likely to require a second round. For many voters, it’s all about the economy. So, what impact will a new leader have on Latin America’s fourth-largest economy, and what are the candidates proposing.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue has more from Bogota.

The campaigns and local media outlets talk about a choice between two economic models.

“The first is to continue on the same path for the country’s economic model and do the same which is to look for job growth, massive imports, and industrialization. The other is a transformation and diversification of the economy through the creation of high quality jobs,” said Economist Mario Valencia.

The two leading candidates expected to face off in a second round, are the right-wing candidate Ivan Duque and leftist candidate Gustavo Petro.

Petro, a former mayor of Bogota, says climate change is his top priority and promises a “social economy” that would shift away from oil- Colombia’s top export – and instead focus on industrialization through the development of the country’s agricultural industry.

Analysts say Petro’s economic plan signals a big shift from the past, but becoming independent from oil won’t happen overnight.

“I don’t think the proposal is to completely change the economic orientation of the country, but yes some are significant changes, such as a review all Free Trade agreements,” added Valencia.

Ivan Duque, meanwhile, is seen as the more “business friendly” candidate. Duque says limiting free trade would hurt emerging markets like Colombia. He wants to boost Colombia’s offshore oil production, but also diversify exports and lower corporate tax rates to trigger employment growth.

“We need to industrialize and strengthen our agriculture, and instead we are defending oil and coal industry exports and we only have oil for five and a half more years,” said Economist Alvaro Pardo.

Colombia’s dwindling oil reserves have brought debate over fracking into this election as well. And no surprise — this controversial extraction method sees the leading candidates on opposite sides. Ivan Duque said he supports fracking in certain regions, while Gustavo Petro stands firmly against it.