Fareed spoke recently with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos about negotiations with the FARC, the country's economy and what to do with former terrorists. Watch the video for the full interview. GPS also invited President Santos to offer his take on the key challenges facing Colombia, and what its future might hold. Here is what he had to say:
"The story of Colombia is one of transformation. Decades ago, we were on the verge of becoming a failed state. In the past few years, our sound economic growth coupled with a business climate that concentrates on investment, entrepreneurship and innovation through advancements in education and equality makes us the world’s next venture nation.
"Given our country’s social, political and economic context, Colombia has become increasingly attractive to the world’s leading companies, investors and visionaries who wish to develop new technologies and markets, as well as produce global corporate solutions.
"Our economy has grown at about 5 percent on average for the past four years, and in the first part of 2014 at 5.2 percent, making us one of the world’s new investment powerhouses. This year our GDP growth is third only to China and Indonesia. In addition, our GDP has tripled in the last decade, reaching almost $370 billion in 2012. Foreign direct investment has also increased, reaching $16 billion.
"While the global economy was struggling a few years ago, Colombia was, and still is booming. Our sustained fiscal policies combined with assertive government initiatives have helped us move in the right direction. We decided to seek others in a quest for solid economic integration; the Pacific Alliance was formed side by side with Chile, Mexico and Peru. Experts worldwide consider this mechanism the new economic miracle, consisting of an integrated market of 210 million consumers, a GDP of nearly $2 trillion and a joint agenda ranging from combined stock markets to the free flow of people and capital, delivering powerful results to our citizens and to the world.
"While these numbers indicate solid growth, our most important achievement is how they have shaped the advancement of Colombian society. Comprehensive initiatives for our less fortunate children and their families have led to significant reductions in poverty and inequality rates. In only four years, 3.6 million Colombians have moved out of poverty and entered a growing middle class. Unfortunately, still many Colombians live in dire need and that is why we will create 2.5 million jobs over the next four years, adding to the already 2.5 million created during my first term.
"We face other challenges, one of which is infrastructure, relegated by years of limited budgets, social instability and armed conflict. To address this issue we have dedicated $26 billion for the construction and improvement of our ports, airports, railways and roads.
"As a nation we understand the importance of innovation and technology, aiming to become Latin America’s Silicon Valley. Over the past four years, we connected every town, district and city – no matter how small – to broadband Internet. This directly benefits schools, hospitals and local security forces in preparing themselves to become citizens of the world. Our efforts are by far unrivaled in the region, increasing from 2.2 million connections in 2010 to 8.8 million in 2014. Colombia seeks to become a global leader in developing applications for as many citizens as possible, with a special emphasis on the less privileged, creating opportunities and equality.
"To further enhance our economic and social achievements we are also strengthening education across our country. Our objective is to become the region’s most educated nation by the year 2025.
"Our country has long known the terrible consequences of having the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. This has been a heavy burden, but we are confident that peace negotiations will advance sufficiently to hopefully soon say that this shameful conflict is over. Nevertheless, the consolidation of peace is not possible if we are unable to establish the necessary conditions for people to advance economically and socially as well as reintegrating past combatants into society. Colombia is on a roll, building momentum fostered by government, but most importantly nurtured by our citizens and the private sector.
"It may seem to some too good to be true, but that is what happens when you unleash the talents of a country 46 million people strong, located in the heart of the Americas, and experiencing a reawakening after 50 years of dormancy caused by violence. Peace alone will bring almost 2 percentage points annually to our already booming economic growth.
"Our vision of a country at peace with education and equality, will without a doubt transform the face of our nation and positively influence the region and the world."
Juan Manuel Santos is the president of Colombia. The views expressed are his own.