I know, I know, I have been circulating this word for a few weeks now – Morrongo, but it’s the best, if not the only way, to spew out a gristly morsel of what lays ahead of us here in Colombia in 2017. This is Colombia’s Year of the Morrongo, or can I say…we are going to face a great deal of Morrongismo?
Tune in to my short intro podcast No 169 about the Year of the Morrongo on Colombia Calling.
First and foremost:
Tourism and Travel
I have addressed this issue on prior occasions on this website, but, this is as good a time as any to reignite the debate. Colombia, and rightly so, has been listed by Bloomberg, NatGeo, Lonely Planet, CNN and others as the place to visit in 2017. And, Colombia will benefit from this, speaking from my perspective as a small business owner here, the reservations for my little Casa Amarilla in Mompos have been through the roof, allowing us to improve and lathe down issues and perhaps even embark on further refurbishment and restorations.
The word is out about Colombia and about time too. With the Peso currently riding at 3000 to the US Dollar, hopefully all of this positive press and the favourable exchange rate can convert into more visitors from our neighbours to the north. And beyond Cartagena too! Just the mere mention of the peace agreement with the FARC after so many years should do the trick as a headline to entice more travelers down.
Where Colombia needs to pull herself up by her bootstraps or fall in to a Morrongo trap of saying that we offer top end and then deliver something significantly average.
Luxury travel and service
Just because we’re awesome and Colombia is incredible, breathtaking and surprising and every superlative available (infuriating too!), the tourism industry is not yet ready for the top-end and luxury market. And before I am trolled within an inch of my existence and end up looking like the skinless cadaver on “that” Robbie Williams music video – there are hotels, restaurants and travel agencies which do make the grade and admirably so. But, overall, we are not there.
Let’s keep on improving and not be drawn in to believing our own hype and that which is kindly written about us. We have to grow together, see the big picture and get it right in a steady and sustainable growth plan. And let’s not dupe our visitors either, explain the situation, clarify what Colombia is really about and sell them the real deal.
You’ll have been on holiday or dead if you missed that a Tax Reform was passed – cynically some might add – on December 23 as we were all deep into Christmas mirth and not thinking of 2017. This tax reform is obviously needed, however, does it and will it address the country’s economy in the way we need it to? I don’t know. I suppose time will tell but for the moment VAT has now been increased from 16% to 19% and those evading paying their taxes are set to serve jail time. If a new reform is required in 2019, I think we’ll be able to class this one as a failure. The country needs to make up the shortfall from the drastic collapse in the oil market…and is banking on the “post conflict” period to encourage further foreign direct investment.
How will the economy be affected in a Morrongo fashion? Peace does mean investment, of course it does, or at least it will encourage some investment, but please don’t sell it as the whole package! Temper those expectations Messrs. Santos, Cardenas and co please! There will be economic growth over time.
The “Post Accord” or “Post Conflict” or perhaps “Post Peace” situation
I added that last term ironically, but if you want to use it…then I claim it now! Don’t hate me for saying this but there is never going to be a true “peace” in Colombia as we from the northern hemisphere interpret the term. Colombia can try to imitate a Scandinavian nation but will come off as a pale imitation at best. Like Panda Cola to Coca Cola. Things are going to be tough here in Colombia, there is already a heady game of misinformation underway between all sides about how the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of the FARC is meant to take place. Expect more of this to occur in coming months, and in particular, watch out for “fake news” or better yet, dumb ass news meant to outrage us and cover up the real dramas damaging to the government.
Who is being Morrongo now? While Colombia and President Santos continue to enjoy the fortunes cast on a country and an individual for the Nobel Prize, nothing is being done to eradicate the systematic, calculated and unhindered assassinations of leftist community leaders across the country.
2017 is a campaign year. We know the identities of most of those in the running for the top job in 2018. The worst kept secret, so badly kept in fact that it was never secret is the inevitable run at the Presidency by current VP Vargas Lleras. One wouldn’t bet against him in any contest since he has been travelling the length and breadth of the country ostensibly on VP duties and using the opportunity to advance his position. You could say that ever since he was discharged from hospital he has been on an unofficial presidential campaign trail. The machinery behind his campaign is pretty formidable. That slap delivered to his driver in public came too early to damage his chances overall.
Claudia Lopez, a progressive business-like senator threw her hat into the ring early in January and while she may be popular amongst urban liberals, her image and name don’t hold much sway in the regions. Who will be the Uribista candidate…I suppose there’ll be a tussle between the former presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and the former Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez. We can also expect the popular and efficient (housewives’ favorite for his mildly Byronic appearance) Governor of Antioquia and former Mayor of Medellin Sergio Fajardo to pitch in with a bid too. The former mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro will call out to the populists from his balcony but I fear the wind will be sucked from the sails of his political ship by the popularity of Claudia Lopez.
Morrongo? All of them of course! Ordoñez, Lopez, Vargas Lleras, Fajardo, Petro and beyond are all capable of being Morrongo in the battle for the presidency. As Colombians say, a Morrongo is capable of throwing a stone and then hiding their hand to avoid capture. A Morrongo will express shock and outrage at corruption but will endorse corrupt regimes or businesses and on the examples go.
So, here’s to 2017 the year of the Morrongo in Colombia.
Say what you want about Ordóñez, he's a good campaigner. He would win any CD primary and would make it to the 2nd round, so the question is who's the best of the non-uribista rest. None of them are moving me. And I like Santos so it's not like I have impossibly high standards.