Angel Gurría

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Angel Gurría succeeded Donald J. Johnston as the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on 1 June 2006[1]. He is a member of the UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation and former member of the World Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure – otherwise known as the Camdessus Panel (a panel of prominent privatisation proponents that called for an increase in private sector participation and finance in water services and infrastructure.

In a speech made in September 2008, Gurría stressed the urgency for coordinated, international action to combat the looming international water crisis. He states, “At the OECD, we have made water a priority and we are working to identify best practices and develop policy proposals to assist countries in moving towards sustainable water management.”

Revealing his ideological persuasion, he adds, “As an economic organisation, we focus on economic tools and incentives to manage this valuable resource and promote the most efficient uses of water…”[2]. With respect to his ideas of successful governance practices and his support of pricing mechanisms, Gurría suggests, “the secret to success is getting the incentives right. The use of economic instruments, including pricing, is still limited, so users do not react to the right price signals. The design of water pricing policies is often complicated by the need to balance financial and social objectives. Historically, water has been significantly under-priced so price hikes can pose a political challenge”[3].

Gurría is in favour of introducing market orientated services for enhancing the effectiveness of publicly funded goods and services. He argues, “more competition can help providers of publicly-funded goods to improve cost-efficiency while better responding to citizen’s needs, Benchmarking; subcontracting; open and transparent tendering; giving users the choice among alternative providers, are all useful, well proven tools”[4]. He vehemently stresses the need of governments to reform, stating, “the political economy of reform is becoming an area of the utmost importance, since economies have to evolve to cope with changing environments. Reform is not an end in itself, but a means for more prosperity and greater well-being. Therefore, a government’s capacity to reform is a great comparative advantage…”[5].

In his support of lowering international trade barriers Gurria gives prominence to a successful conclusion of the Doha round – the current trade negotiation round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He suggests, “trade provides… for the developing world in general a multiple of the benefits that aid provides and trade is permanent and transforms countries in a way that is irreversible”[6]. The Doha round negotiations, which began in 2001, have been met by much resistance from developing nations and civil society organisations. Much of the contention and concern has to do with extending and achieving trade liberalisation in services, such as fresh water goods and services.

Angel Gurría has held several prominent positions in the Mexican government, including Minister of Foreign Affairs (1994-98) and Minister of Finance (1998-2000). He is former president and CEO of Bancomext – Mexico’s export-import Bank. He was head of Mexico’s debt renegotiation team[7].


  1. OECD, Angel Gurría – Secretary of the OECD, accessed 22 November 2008.
  2. OECD, Water Prices of Agriculture, accessed 22 November 2008.
  3. OECD, Water for All: A Matter of Good Governance – The OECD Perspective, accessed 22 November 2008.
  4. OECD, Building the Public Services of Tomorrow With, For and Around Customers, accessed 22 November 2008.
  5. OECD, The Art of Making Reform Happen: Learning from Each Other, accessed 22 November 2008.
  6. BBC World News Debate, Investing in Africa: What Works?, accessed 22 November 2008.
  7. Center for Global Development, Jose Angel Gurría Trevino, accessed 23 November 2008.