One of your landmark projects in Colombia is improving the navigability of the Magdalena River. How is that project progressing?
We are dealing now with the pre-construction phase of the project and will have until mid-2016 to complete it. We initially took over the river's control in June 2015 and we were affected by the drought in the region. However, we managed to maintain navigability in the river, and we have also undertaken the financial side of the project. The project foresees five years of construction, but we expect to complete it in four years. This is a rather short-term project that presents a 13.5-year concession between pre-construction and construction activity. We foresee intelligent dredging in the river, especially between Barrancabermeja and Puerto Salgar, which are key areas for project feasibility. We looked at similar projects like the river Rhine in Germany to develop something similar in Colombia.
You stated that investing in the Magdalena River project is safer than investing in 4G projects. Why is that?
In our opinion, the Magdalena River project actually has less or smaller risks than the 4G projects have. For example, the environmental issues concerning the project are almost non-existent in the Magdalena River. The licensing for this project is also less bureaucratic and we expect minimum social challenges as well. This occurs because we are doing the works of maintenance in the river and the navigable channel since the first day when we assumed control of the river. We will carry out 150 works of breakwaters that will not affect either villages or towns along the river and we are committed to not causing any social or environmental concerns.
What other sectors offer great potential for you?
We can play an active part in the energy projects the government wants to boost. There is a lack of energy infrastructure along the coast and we could offer many alternatives as solutions there. Water recycling systems and sewage water projects are also areas where there is much to be done in Colombia. Water is the main challenge in the 21st century, and Odebrecht can positively affect Colombia's development in that regard. The water tariff culture in the country must change. We also see great potential in the agribusiness industry.
Do you think that the corruption charges that the CEO of Odebrecht faces in Brazil could affect your operations in Colombia?
We truly are a decentralized company. We are a group with more than 100 companies distributed in 15 different business areas. Each company acts independently and, because of that, problems abroad do not affect our local operations. Besides, we consider ourselves a Colombian company; we have been operating in this country continuously for almost 25 years and most of our workforce in the country is made up of native Colombians. Today, we have over 6,000 people who depend directly and indirectly on Odebrecht in Colombia. We are also a highly reputable company from the performance and financial points of view in Colombia thanks to our activity throughout these years. One of our main assets is our people; we invest a great deal in them and have training facilities, offering programs and courses to our people.
Where do you see the company in 2017, the company's 25th anniversary in Colombia?
We are among the top-10 construction companies in Colombia. We want to be among the top five. In addition, we want to become the most attractive company for young people to work for when finishing their studies. We want to generate benefits for our people, our activities, and our society. We want to further help Colombia to develop its infrastructure and be ready to take on future challenges associated with its continuous growth and development.