OECD, turns into ‘do-tank’

By Aurilia End ,AFP

PARIS — The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, derided as a ��rich nations’ club�� that vegetated in its Parisian chateau for decades, has redefined itself as the go-to resource for economic analysis. ��When I started my career (at the French finance ministry) in 1996, they sent me to visit the OECD. I said to myself, ‘God, I hope I don’t end up here!’�� said Pascal Saint-Amans, recalling his impression of the institution as ��second tier.�� But Saint-Amans, a graduate of France’s top administration school, did indeed wind up at the think-tank, joining in 2007 after the group had, in his words, ��taken off.�� Today he heads one of the body’s biggest units, the crime-busting Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. Many attribute the turnaround to Angel Gurria, who took over as OECD secretary general in 2005. The worldly Mexican economist has just embarked on his third six-year mandate after the OECD’s 34 member states unanimously re-elected him last week.

He plays host Tuesday and Wednesday to the OECD Forum, an annual get-together with an A-list of guests who will include French President Francois Hollande. When Gurria took the helm, the OECD was a stodgy consultative body, an outgrowth of the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II and strongly associated with the Western side of the Iron Curtain. Gurria, Mexico’s finance minister from 1998 to 2000, had made a name for himself by ably renegotiating his country’s debt with support from Washington, by far the biggest financial contributor to the OECD. A decade later, he joined in with the ministers of the Group of 20 leading economies to tackle the 2008 financial crisis. Jovial, multi-lingual and tenacious, Gurria has criss-crossed the world, toting all manner of reports �X evaluations of national school systems known as PISAs, studies on binge drinking among young people, black lists of tax havens, analyses of income inequality, economic growth forecasts…