Colombia’s government announced Tuesday that President Juan Manuel Santos’ $24.5 billion public infrastructure initiative will proceed as expected.
According to Minister of Finance Mauricio Cardenas, Colombia’s largest ever public investment project, called ‘4G’ by the government, was approved earlier this week by the Council on Economic and Social Policy. The ‘Highways for Prosperity’ program is only a small part of a strategic spending plan the Colombian government claims will employ as many as 450,000 people during construction stages alone, and increase national economic growth by 1% annually.
The goal, as stated on the project’s website, is to “improve connectivity between the principle centers of production and exportation to make [Colombia] a more competitive country and overcome the historical drag in transport infrastructure.”
The Council’s decision to approve the massive spending was celebrated by the Santos administration as an important step toward modernizing the Colombian economy, and various groups participating in the ongoing national strikes have made a lack of functional infrastructure in rural areas one of the primary focuses of recent protests and formal negotiating declarations.
Others, however, have been critical of the spending initiative as a successful form of social investment. Alfredo Crosthwait, for example, the organizer behind last month’s engineering sector protests in Risaralda, previously told Colombia Reports that presidential infrastructure spending is the government’s way of avoiding contracting regulations.
‘Highways for Prosperity,’ he says, is already mired in corruption, despite only just having begun its formal bidding process. He claims that projects with substantial public funding and little to no public oversight “leave [Colombians] with unfinished work, leave suppliers without pay, and leave workers without benefits.”
- Interview with Alfredo Crosthwait
- Concessiones de Cuarta Generacion (4G) government website
- Ministry of Finance press release