More than security issues, the development of infrastructure in Colombia is hindered by corruption, says the infrastructure expert of economic website Business News Americas that is organizing a summit on infrastructure in the Andes in March.
“Governments are always looking to make sure their name is on the big projects – last year, for example, we saw the Transversal de las Americas highway, a $636 million project, awarded just days before the end of (former President Alvaro) Uribe’s term in office. Similarly, a concession for a package of six airports, the Nor-Oriente group, was awarded on August 5 last year [two days before the end of Uribe’s term]. There were serious concerns about whether either of these projects were ready to be awarded at the time,” Catherine Setterfield, infrastructure editor of Business News Americas told Colombia Reports.
Corruption — equally common in other Latin American countries, said Setterfield — poses a bigger problem to successful infrastructure projects than security threats by leftist rebel groups like the FARC and ELN.
“Obviously Colombia has that reputation, but the situation has improved a lot. Attacks on infrastructure have decreased by 84% since 2002, while homicides and kidnappings are down 45% and 92% respectively, according to the U.S. State Department. If you’re looking to invest in Latin America, the risks in Colombia are certainly lower than some other countries in the region,” the journalist said.
The risk reduction should make Colombia more interesting for investors in infrastructure, particularly in urban areas, Setterfield said.
“There are some interesting infrastructure projects coming up. Urban highways have been a real success in countries like Chile, and it looks like Colombia is going to follow suit. The government is working with Latin American development bank CAF on a $2.6 billion program to build 100 miles of urban highways in the next ten years. It’s a very ambitious plan and should provide some good opportunities for investors. Another project that will also attract a lot of attention is the Bogota metro. It’s still at the very early stages, but if it’s properly designed, it should prove a big success,” said the journalist.
A summit, organized in March by the Chile-based business website, aims to provide more information to investors on investment possibilities in Colombia and other countries in South America.
“The aim of the Summit is to help senior executives in the infrastructure industries in the Andes better understand investment and business opportunities. The Summit is meant to help foster new business relationships amongst the public and private sector. Executives will attend the summit to engage in discussions around infrastructure policy, investment, regulation and partnership in the Andean region,” said Ken Bauco, conference manager of Business News Americas.
According to Bauco, the summit comes at a critical time. “There is a renewed interest in refurbishing, updating and creating new energy, water, social and transport infrastructure across Latin America. Foreign investment is pouring in, and international infrastructure companies are looking to Latin America for new business and investment opportunities,” he said.
Colombia Reports is media partner of the Andean Infrastructure Summit organized by Business News Americas and will report weekly on infrastructure in Colombia until the two-day event on March 23 and 24.