UP AND COMING

Colombia 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dionisio Vélez Trujillo, Mayor of Cartagena, on improving the city's image, getting infrastructure projects back on track, and making the city a destination for tourism and business.

Dionisio Vélez Trujillo
BIOGRAPHY
Dionisio Vélez Trujillo becamme Mayor of Cartagena in July 2013. He was previously the Vice Rector of institutional development at the Fundación Tecnológica Antonio De Arévalo (TECNAR). Prior to that, he was the administrative and financial manager of BT Security technology, where he later sat on the directors’ board. Between 2006-2010 he sat on the directors board of Ole Parking S.A., Incisan Fire Colombia S.A., where he was previously president. He studied Business Administration and Economics at the Politécnico Grancolombiano, before undertaking a specialization in Management and finance at the Universidad Santo Tomás, and later a specialization in administration, finance and economics at Wichita State University in Kansas, US.

Since you arrived in office, what have been your priorities regarding public policies?

One of my top priorities was to cut the social debt the city had and develop Cartagena's government alongside the private sector, for the benefit of its citizens. This is in effect our strategic development plan. Luckily, we have been able to involve many people from the private sector in this process and that has enabled us to achieve a lot in two years of activity. We have managed to change the perception many people had of Cartagena, a feeling of lack of confidence and credibility, and level of institutionalization.

In the next year you have allocated almost $1 billion dollars for infrastructural projects . What role will this play in the further development of the city?

Infrastructure is a key subject for us and we understand it is a sector that has driven the catch up between the private and the public sector. Infrastructure develops the city. For example, one of the key projects is the Transcaribe massive transport system. No other city government had invested as much in infrastructure as us. In this context, Transcaribe has been a key infrastructure project for the city in the last 12 years; however, we have added dynamism to the project. For example, we have tendered the operation of all Transcaribe bus lines for around $94 million each. Additionally, we have finished the courtyard of Transcaribe for $25 million. We have even managed to obtain some funds from the national government for this project, whereas in the past, the national government regarded Transcaribe as a failed project. I hope that by the end of 2015, Transcaribe will be operating. This year we will complete a historical record of works and investment in roads. For example, we paved over 320 roads in Cartagena, equal to 40 miles. We also carried out record investments in the education network in Cartagena; we invested over $29 million in around 76 district schools. Education is one of the most effective tools to achieve change in society. The same applies to the health industry, where we invested $36 million into 30 new public hospitals in the city. Finally, the Public Market project saw the creation of a PPP for the management and construction of Cartagena's Public Market. We have refurbished other public markets across the city, increasing the area and number of sellers. All these works have been accompanied by public policies to develop Cartagena in key fields such as the port and tourism. We have the port that manages over 80% of Colombia's cargo, we are the second city in terms of air connection opportunities. Cartagena accounts for around 6% of the GDP, and we are the alternative headquarter city of the government of Colombia.

What role can tourism play in the further development of the city?

Previous administrations did not put a lot emphasis on the development of the tourism industry in Cartagena. We have changed this and we understand of the importance of this industry; one of our goals is to increase the number of cruises arriving in the city and that's why we build the tourism port of Cartagena with a budget of $7 million. We also developed a project to create more green areas and parks through the sponsorship of the private sector and so far we have developed more than 30 such partnerships, which have made of our a city an even more beautiful one, which can only boost tourism.