A web presentation from the Washington Office on Latin America

WOLA logo 15th Anniversary of Plan Colombia: Learning from its Successes and Failures

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The Likely Cost

Take a quick look at the list below of commitments that Colombia’s government has made just in the first peace accord with the FARC, on rural development. Most of these proposed initiatives are absolutely necessary; in some cases it’s shocking that they don’t already exist. But implementing them in vast rural zones, among the roughly 20-30 percent of the population who participate in the rural economy, will carry a very high price tag in the post-accord period.

Nobody knows how much peace accord implementation might cost, but a frequently cited estimate proposes a figure of 90 trillion Colombian pesos in ten years, or a bit more than US$30 billion at the current exchange rate. This seems impossibly low.

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A list of commitments in the rural development accord, followed by a back-of-the-envelope estimate of what even part of peace accord implementation might cost, followed by a Colombian government graphic indicating likely budget shrinkage

Let’s return to the list above, which covers just one of six draft accords (though probably the costliest). Now estimate how much even a minimal yearly outlay per each one of Colombia’s roughly 15 million campesinos might cost. It is easy to exceed US$100 billion dollars over 10 years, or even reach US$150 billion, to implement this one accord. Add to this the cost of a new drug-control policy, reintegration of ex-combatants, international verification, a truth commission, transitional justice, victims’ reparations, and much else.

Yet Colombia’s national budget, due to a weak peso and a plunge in oil prices, is shrinking just as these new expenditures must start to come online. While most funds will have to come from Colombia’s treasury, quick initial impacts in the immediate post-accord period are crucial to the credibility of the entire process. International donor support, and coordination, are going to be essential. That process is overdue and must start now. President Santos’s February 2016 visit is an opportunity to move it along.

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