Spotlight: Peru's new president outlines ambitious vision in inauguration speech

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Added On July 29, 2016

LIMA, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was sworn in as the president of Peru on Thursday, promising a social revolution and to build a modern, safe country, free of discrimination.

The new president, who will govern until 2021, was sworn in during a ceremony in Parliament from former president Ollanta Humala.

"I want a social revolution for my country, so that in five years, Peru can be a fairer, more equal and more united country, which will make it a more modern country," said Kuczynski in his over 40-minute inaugural address to the nation.

He outlined his government's main objectives for his mandate, including "creating access to opportunities...through a magnificent education system and a healthcare system focused on people's needs."

Kuczynski added that his vision of a modern Peru also meant a fair judicial system, as well as having security conditions to ensure peace on the streets.

Crime has been a particular concern for Peruvians during this election cycle as insecurity has been on the rise. Furthermore, the country has been plagued for years by "extortion", meaning almost daily acts of petty corruption, including police asking for money to simply do their jobs.

Acknowledging that Peru, despite a healthy economy, still faces broad inequality, Kuczynski vowed to find a way to raise the salaries of the 7 million poorest Peruvians.

According to Kuczynski, his government would focus on "how to put money in the pockets of Peruvians, and raise their access to essential services...which are extremely costly for the poor."

Among other related objectives, he promised to close gaps in society's access to healthcare and social security.

While Peru is seen as a solid bet among foreign investors, its economy has stagnated in recent years. Kuczynski, an experienced banker and economist, will need to find ways to kickstart it.

Kuczynski also said his administration would come down hard on acts of corruption, as he feels a modern country must also be an honest country.

"To succeed in this, we need a president totally committed to the fight against corruption. I will not allow my officials and closest collaborators to fall to the indignity of corruption," he pointed out.

He was also very clear in sending a message that any member of his government found to be corrupt would be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.

In other policy promises, Kuczynski pledged that more attention would be given to Peru's remote, border areas, that a fiscal reform would lower the tax burden on Peruvian businesses, and that productive sectors would be encouraged to formalize their labor situations.

One announcement that is likely to play well internationally was that Peru remains fully committed to the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with Kuczynski saying his government's goals are aligned with it.

Finally, the president said that Peru would finish the process to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) by 2021, which he said would be evidence of Peru's commitment to integral development.

This pledge raised some eyebrows among the media, with the Peru21 news platform expressing doubts that this would be possible, given that the OECD is known as "the club of the rich."

The OECD has already outlined four areas Peru needs to work on if it hopes to join: build a decentralized fiscal regime, allowing for regions to offer better public services; implement policies to favor economic diversification and broaden the export basket; ensure better coordination between urban and rural policies while striving for improved collaboration between Lima and regional governments; and improving national statistics and information systems in order to improve public policies.

In the days leading up to his swearing-in, Kuczynski has also had to deal with the shadow of former president, Alberto Fujimori, currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for crimes against humanity.

His daughter, Keiko, was defeated by Kuczynski in the race for the presidency but her Popular Force (PF) party holds an absolute majority in Congress.

This has led to PF lawmakers encouraging Kuczynski to pardon Fujimori but both the new president and his predecessor, Humala, categorically ruled out doing so.

Having won the presidential election by the narrowest of margins (0.24 percent), Kuczynski cannot afford to alienate Keiko Fujimori and her PF party, for fear of seeing his ambitious agenda surrendered to legislative gridlock.

Kuczynski has appointed an uncontroversial cabinet of technocrats and experts, few of them tied to the rivalry with Fujimori, which was widely praised.

However, Peruvians risk being particularly impatient with any delays, with Humala leaving office with a record low popularity rating of 19 percent.