GDI Alumni appointed as President of Colombia's public pension and social security administrator, Colpensiones

28 September 2018

Juan Miguel Villa completed his PhD research on antipoverty transfer programmes in 2015 with us. He then went to work in a research position in Washington DC at the Inter-American Development Bank and is now returning to his native Colombia in a senior position.

This new role will see him in charge of Colpensiones - the state backed administrator of the defined benefit pension system in Colombia. Juan will be responsible for the accounting of nearly 2,000 employees, regional offices and millions of beneficiaries. In the medium term, he will also work on pension policy and reforms.

Juan says the main challenge in his new role will be to ensure that the pension system addresses poverty for older people and will aim to address two key issues requiring immediate attention:

  • Currently only one in three older people in Colombia receive a full pension, with many older people living in poverty or in a vulnerable situation. Juan will strive for ensuring greater pension coverage so it aims to equal the coverage of that of OECD countries.  
  • Low income workers effectively subsidise those on higher incomes to receive the public pension.

Juan’s PhD thesis evaluated antipoverty transfer programmes in Colombia, with a particular focus on conceptualising what he was seeing in his fieldwork and testing hypotheses to help antipoverty programmes achieve better results. He said his PhD helped him understand both global and country-specific contexts of antipoverty policies in developing countries, which has allowed him to design and implement improvements in antipoverty transfer programmes in Latin-America, the Caribbean and some African countries and now towards achieving the same in Colombia.


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