A study by economic and social investigation body Fedesarrollo has found that shoddy Colombian infrastructure is holding the country back and more than $11 billion will need to be invested annually to bring development up to date, according to newspaper El Espectador Friday.
The report from Fedesarrollo also named Colombia as one of the worst countries in Latin America in terms of infrastructure and transport and put it behind 87% of countries in the world for infrastructure development, according to the president of Fedesarrollo Leonardo Villar, at a meeting of the National Congress on Infrastructure.
Villar said that statistical information was lacking for the official figures on Colombian infrastructure and the few numbers that exist are neither believable nor consistent.
The Fedesarrollo president said that Colombia is 30% below the level it should be in terms of development, although in the case of ports the figure is much lower at 3%.
The report said that to reduce the shortfall in non-urban transport, more than $11 billion should be invested annually from now until 2020, corresponding to 3.1% of GDP. Of this figure 20% should be focused on reducing existing problems and 80% should respond to expected increases in traffic due to commercial agreements that the country has signed. Thus paved roads are expected to increase from just over 8,000 miles to 27,000 miles by the end of the decade.
Taking the indicators of global competitiveness from the World Economic Forum, Colombian infrastructure has negatively affected competitiveness in the country, including in relation to airports, an area it was thought was better positioned.
Villar stressed the necessity of investment in multimodal infrastructure, as he pointed out that although roads are of utmost importance, 27% of cargo moves by rail. Along with this a good portion of resources should be invested in the ports. “With multmodal transport we can connect the whole country,” said the Fedesarrollo president.
Although the negative tendencies have changed over the last few years, reducing the gap in infrastructure and transport requires major combined efforts, according to Villar. The negative figures are because of a low level of public investment and institutional factors which do not stimulate private investment.
The challenges are multiple according to Villar who said that Colombia “doesn’t have the infrastructure to continue to grow at the rates we expected.”
The Fedesarrollo president said that the gap could only be reduced with investment, proper management and understanding of Colombia’s vulnerabilities which include complex topography and a changeable climate. “If there is good quality work there is less cost in maintenance ad reconstruction,” said Villar.
“In Colombia we have a problem between quality and quantity. No investments have been made with top quality because this costs more and the benefits cannot be seen in the short term, meaning that it does not hold benefit from the political point of view which is looking for immediate results,” said Villar.