Serious Business: Diminishing the Size of the Informal Sector in Medellin, Colombia

The new mayor of Medellin, Sergio Fajardo, arrived to office in 2004 pledging to remake the social contract between society and the state. He campaigned to introduce innovative social programs designed to lessen the high levels of poverty and violence in the city. But the mayor needed money to finance these programs. The Minister of Planning, Federico Restrepo Posada, was charged with engaging the private sector, increasing tax revenue and promoting job creation. To do this, Restrepo needed to address the high levels of informal economic activity hindering economic dynamism and depressing the tax base. The state could not provide the necessary services because it did not collect enough taxes, but businesses refused to pay taxes because they did not believe the state capable of delivering the services that they required. The case looks at how Restrepo addressed this dilemma.

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