AN INFRASTRUCTURE REVOLUTION

Colombia 2016 | INFRASTRUCTURE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Juan Martin Caicedo Ferrer, Executive President of the Colombian Chamber of Infrastructure (CCI), on the future of infrastructure in the country, challenges, and the role of SMEs.

Juan Martin Caicedo Ferrer
BIOGRAPHY
Juan Martin Caicedo Ferrer is the Executive President of the Colombian Chamber of Infrastructure (CCI). He studied law and economics at the Javeriana University in Bogotá, with specializations in the state universities of Louvain and Antwerp in Belgium. Caicedo has served in several public posts, such as Mayor of Bogotá and President of the National Federation of Municipalities, and served as a senator from 1994-2002. He is a member of several boards of directors in the public and private sectors and has been twice honored as Executive of the Year in the House Junior.

How much do you expect the construction sector to contribute to the Colombian economy in 2016?

The average share of the infrastructure sector in GDP has been around 3% for the past five years. I do not expect this figure to change dramatically in 2016, because of the huge investments in the road concession program that will commence late this year. However, taking into account that the oil and gas sector will lose its share in the economy, other sectors, such as ours, will increase in relevance.

What are the main challenges that Colombia faces in developing its infrastructure projects?

In the short term, the main challenges are mainly related to managing financing and environmental licensing. Our main goal is to overcome these issues in order to start the execution of the construction phase of these infrastructure projects. Once this happens, our next efforts will be to focus on land acquisition for the first units.

What steps is CCI taking to ensure that SMEs play a role in infrastructure development?

Last year CCI was part of a roundtable lead by the Vice President's office, which aimed to outline the obstacles that SMEs are facing in the sector, and to identify exactly what is standing in the way of them finding new and different business opportunities. The main conclusions of this exercise suggested that an assessment of the incentives that Colombia's Procurement Act offers in terms of access to tenders and bidding processes must be carried out. Figures show that the majority of the processes offered by national and regional governments end with just one player, which means that there is no real competition. Corruption is also still a major problem in the procurement process, and this issue illustrates the need for public policy to be oriented toward building capacity and creating a standardized system for applications. Thankfully, the OECD commission that is assessing Colombia's admission to the organization has shared its concern over the lack of standardized forms with us, and I hope that its recommendations and the results contribute to convincing the government about the importance of this matter for the strengthening and development of SMEs.

Has the Colombian PPP law made the country more attractive as an investment destination?

Our PPP law was introduced for understandable reasons. However, our competitive advantage in the region is not the law itself, but the economic guarantees that Colombia offers to investors. The country has long had effective rule of law and tight fiscal discipline, both of which help investors feel more comfortable. The challenge we have now is to maintain this positive image abroad, while working to overcome the threat of Dutch Disease and the challenges presented by the drop in global oil prices in 2015.

What will the infrastructure of Colombia look like in 2020?

By 2020 we will have a modern and service-oriented road system. This implies a revolution in comparison with what we have now. The construction of more than 140 viaducts and 150 tunnels will change the experience of traveling by road, and will increase the country's competitiveness dramatically.