OECD SecGen Candidate Diamantopoulou: “It’s the Climate Change, Stupid!”

February 11, 2021

ATHENS — The urgent need to address the climate crisis was among main messages underlined by Greek politician Anna Diamantopoulou, a former European Commissioner and one of the four candidates short-listed to lead the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in an interview with the Spanish newspaper "Expansion" published on Thursday.

Under the headline "Governments must proceed with ambitious structural reforms", the article highlighted her focus on reducing carbon emissions, as well as labour market reform and an agreement to tax the digital sector.

"Expansion" also emphasised the fact that Diamantopoulou was selected as a candidate by Greece's prime minister, in spite of the fact that she belonged to an opposition party.

Asked what it will mean for a woman to take over as OECD secretary general for the first time, Diamantopoulou replied: "Kamala Harris showed all the girls in the world that gender is no longer an obstacle to attaining your dreams. The position of OECD Secretary General is not, of course, the vice-presidency of the United States. It is, however, an international organisation with influence and to elect a woman as its leader will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration to all women and girls to break through the barriers. It will mean that we break through another 'glass ceiling'. Gender equality is a foremost political priority. Pedro Sanchez opened the way, with the greatest participation of women in a government in Spain's history. Let us follow his example."

Asked about her priorities, if elected, she said her primary goal will be to eradicate exclusion and deal with inequalities between states, generations and sexes. Of primary importance to this goal, she added, was the planning and implementation of decisive policies for the digital transition, the fight against climate change and reform of employment.

"It is also crucial for people to understand the importance of the OECD. Its influence is huge and the impact of its work are not limited to technocrats and government officials. For example, the OECD fights tax evasion to reduce loss of revenue for governments, which is estimated to amount to as much as 240 billion dollars. Now that state revenues are becoming smaller, people need to know that the OECD can help governments put money into their coffers," she said.

Regarding the taxation of the digital sector, Diamantopoulou said Joe Biden's election will mark a revival of global alliances. "I consider it imperative that we reach an agreement on the taxation of the digital sector. It is clear that traditional taxation methods no longer meet the needs of the globalised system and the digital economy. We have to introduce a new taxation architecture that is based on one firm principle: that profits are taxed at the point where value is created," she clarified.

She also commented on green taxes: "Allow me to paraphrase President Clinton. 'It's the climate change, stupid!' Let us start from this conclusion: that we must rebuild ourselves in a green fashion and, in order to achieve this, we must convince citizens and businesses to prefer clean forms of energy instead of polluting forms. Taxation of greenhouse gas emissions is an effective way to incentivise those that emit to choose alternative sources at lower cost. In addition, it shows a significant political commitment to push businesses to invest in technologies with a neutral carbon balance. It remains, of course, to determine the details of this policy, something that the OECD countries must decide."

On her forecast for 2021, Diamantopoulou said the existence of Covid-19 vaccines meant it was reasonable to expect economies to have a strong recovery, though "especially now, it is not advisable to base our policies on road maps." The pandemic had highlighted the limits to planning for the future and made the world unpredictable, she noted, while demonstrating the need to have contingency plans in place that ensure that future impacts can be absorbed.

"For this reason, in the statement of my goals that I prepared for the OECD, I emphasised the creation of a centre to explore scenarios for possible 'alternative futures' we may encounter," she said.



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