Cover No 236, March 2003

The OECD might not be thought of as playing a role in water supply and management, but in fact it has a leading role, as it does in all areas of sustainable development.

The world is a living biological organism, not just a planetary rock with life somehow superimposed on it. This is the so-called gaia hypothesis developed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. In a recent interview Mr Lovelock noted: “Life clearly does more than adapt to Earth. It changes Earth for its own purposes. Evolution is a tightly coupled dance, with life and the material environment as partners.”

Demography and climate change: as I read the literature and consult the experts, I am increasingly convinced that many of this century’s important challenges, especially for our children and grandchildren, will flow from these two phenomena. Let me sketch some scenarios and questions with respect to each.

The Ministerial Council meeting and Forum this year provide a rich menu of issues for consideration including investing in energy, structural adjustment in response to globalisation, development challenges, as well as the progress of trade negotiations under the Doha Round.

©OECD/Nguyen Tien

This is my last editorial for the OECD Observer before I step down as secretary-general in May 2006. Nevertheless, I will focus on the future, rather than dwell on the past. That is not to say that we should ignore John Maynard Keynes’ advice that we should examine the present, in light of the past, for the purposes of the future. But sometimes the present and the future cannot draw many useful lessons from the past.

The economic environment is changing rapidly. Globalisation is being driven by international trade and investment which, in turn, are spurred on by the borderless world produced by swift advances in communications and transport technologies. The necessary companions are market liberalisation – without which the current expansion of trade and investment would slow dramatically – and new forms of governance to referee the changing rules of the game and ensure effective implementation of public policy.
Fundamental questions about the respective roles of the state and the market lie at the heart of the current debate about regulatory reform. Governments are grappling with a double challenge: they have to reduce obstacles to the dynamic market forces that drive efficiency and innovation in an increasingly competitive, globalising economy; and they have to find more efficient ways to protect and promote important public-policy goals. Regulatory reform helps them deal with both.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q2 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 1.9% August 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.1% August 2019
Last update: 9 September 2019

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