: Chris Goodney / Bloomberg.
President Duque’s flagship Orange Economy program is in its fourth year. However, as the administration comes to a close, the next administration must decide in what direction to take the initiative. Its continuity is in limbo as leading candidates with opposing views of culture, investment, and creativity come closer to a runoff. Will Duque’s long-term gamble on culture pay off?
One of Iván Duque’s priorities when he first came into office was to make cultural and creative industries central to the country’s economic development. He had a plan to create sustainable conditions for creating, circulating, and accessing culture throughout the country. Although these promises were interrupted by the pandemic, administrative mishaps, and staff turnover, the importance of culture not just for culture’s sake, but also in terms of its economic potential remains. As Duque’s time in office comes to an end, there’s a great deal of uncertainty about how the next government will continue one of his flagship policies.
Loosely defined, Duque’s so-called “Orange Economy” is a public policy to promote cultural, social, and economic development based on content from the production, distribution, and creation of goods and services done in a way that supports the creator’s intellectual property rights. The approval of the National Development Plan “Pacto por Colombia, Pacto por la Equidad” marked the first time that the government specified that it would protect and promote local culture. However, this is easier said than done. Implementing these mechanisms has been a challenge considering the vast productive and employment challenges faced by different cities and regions all over Colombia. Therefore, meeting the government’s expectations when it proposed focusing on the orange economy has been difficult and entails a long-term view instead of a four-year assessment.
To be fair, the administration has worked together with international cooperation to develop strategic spaces to promote social and economic transformation, placing culture at the center of the pending agenda development called Orange Development Areas (ODA). However, the length of the projects will largely depend on the political will from both local governments (a little over midpoint in their administrations) and from the incoming national government (which takes office on August 7).
Budgets are among the crucial issues to be addressed by the incoming government as the current government has already set priority areas for 2022, and the incoming administration must set priority areas through its national development plan (due before the end of the year), which may ultimately doom the long-term prospects of orange economy projects. This is true considering the significant fiscal tightening that the next government will have to implement to reduce the deficit.
There has been some continuity in social projects from one administration to the next—albeit with a significant facelift. “Plante y Pa’Lante,” a coca substitution project implemented in 1995 during the Presidency of Ernesto Samper, has changed names multiple times and even became the baseline for the current government’s National Comprehensive Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS). Similarly, the Uribe Administration’s social subsidy program “Familias En Acción” has continued to operate under the same name, although significantly compounded.
In the past, incoming administrations have significantly changed other government programs to fit their narrative. This paradigm has been the case with implementing the peace agreement, which the current government has dubbed “Peace with Legality” and has attempted to modify significantly, despite blockages by the courts and Congress. This doesn’t mean that the next government will discontinue the “Orange Economy,” but expect changes for the program. Even though they may only slightly adjust the program, the incoming administration will likely retool to meet its narrative.
There are several alternatives for this government program going forward, and the next government may prioritize each. Each of them carries its own risks in terms of capturing the identity, diversity, and creation of social capital within the creative sector. Under one alternative, the government will co-finance cultural developments, including cinema, radio, television, design, and fashion, with small-scale artists and craftspeople throughout the country—but particularly in rural areas—to build communities and local narratives. The other alternative is to focus on Colombia’s cultural sector in areas where there is a greater value added and prioritizing tourist and commercial attractiveness and focusing on urban regeneration, investment attraction, and the organization of large-scale events.
Although the government should arguably be doing both things at the same time, Colombia’s next president will likely choose one based on ideological preferences or cost-effectiveness. Under a scenario where left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro wins, it is feasible that he will frown upon some of the more commercially oriented aspects of government-financed cultural programs. Whereas if right-wing presidential hopeful Federico Gutiérrez defeats Petro in a presumptive runoff, he will likely veer towards a cultural sector that can boost foreign direct investment—though one that does not incentivize a critical narrative of the country’s conflict. These are the two most extreme cases, yet either government would likely have a difficult time retooling existing initiatives to fit their narratives. Nevertheless, they are bound to try and leave their mark on the program.
What is clear is that the Duque administration’s bet on the Orange Economy will only pay off in the medium and long term, and its success will be contingent on the continuity they get from future administrations both at the national and local levels. Colombia has a lot of culture to share with the world, including handicrafts, literature, film, music, and art projects produced locally and consumed globally. The next government must see the Orange Economy as an opportunity to boost the cultural sector’s productivity, stimulate creative infrastructure, and promote sustainability to empower local creative producers; not as Iván Duque’s legacy project. The program’s long-term success hinges on it.
Sergio Guzmán is the Director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a political risk consulting firm based in Bogotá. Follow him on Twitter @SergioGuzmanE and @ColombiaRisk.
Paula Tavera was an intern at Colombia Risk Analysis and is a current undergraduate student at Universidad Javeriana. Follow her on Twitter @TaveraPaulaA.
This piece is based on a forthcoming report on the Orange Economy by Colombia Risk Analysis. All opinions and content are solely the opinion of the authors and do not represent the viewpoints of Global Americans.