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Colombia Finance Ministry, Business Groups Make Rare Joint Plea for Interest Rate Cuts

(Bloomberg) -- Colombia’s Finance Ministry joined the nation’s top bankers and industrialists in calling for interest rate cuts to revive the weak economy.

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In a rare combined statement, Finance Minister Ricardo Bonilla added his voice to the private business groups asking the central bank to ease monetary policy sooner rather than later.

“We hope that the central bank will take this issue into consideration in upcoming meetings,” Bonilla said, speaking alongside the head of the nation’s biggest banking association, Asobancaria, and the head of the nation’s main business association, ANDI.

The central bank has earned its credibility, but now faces a “new reality” as inflation starts to cool, the three institutions said in their statement. Monetary stimulus would dynamize industry and help create jobs, the statement added.

The leftist government of President Gustavo Petro is following the example of Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who repeatedly criticized his nation’s central bank for failing to cut borrowing costs fast enough.

Brazil and Chile are now easing monetary policy, while Mexico and Peru are expected to cut interest rates in the coming months. Economists surveyed Colombia’s central bank expect the first interest rate cut in October.

Weak Growth

Bonilla is a voting member of the seven-member monetary policy committee that meets to decide on interest rates on Sept. 29. Colombia’s 13.25% monetary policy rate is the highest alongside Brazil’s among the region’s major economies.

Colombian inflation slowed to 11.8% last month after peaking in March, though that’s still nearly quadruple its 3% target. Meanwhile, the central bank forecasts economic growth of less than 1% this year, down from 7.3% in 2022.

Colombia’s central bank is independent, and has tended to disregard the advice it’s received from all four presidents over the last two decades.

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