FABRIZIO FELICIANI

Mexico 2020 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

As the UN's special projects services unit, UNOPS' main goal is to support public institutions that are undertaking important infrastructure projects to contribute significantly to advancing a country or region's development agenda.

Fabrizio Feliciani
BIOGRAPHY

Fabrizio Feliciani is the Regional Director of UNOPS. He has held a range of senior management positions in his career, developing innovative practices in sustainable development, human rights, evaluation, and oversight. In the 1990s, he managed a range of UNOPS portfolios, including in areas of Central America affected by war. Feliciani worked for 10 years as an evaluator of projects, programs, and public policies for several UN entities, private firms, NGOs, and governments. He re-joined UNOPS in 2012 as regional advisor for sustainable development for Latin America and the Caribbean. He holds a PhD in agricultural sciences. He has also served as a professor of ecology, rural development, and cooperation for development.

Can you tell us about UNOPS' commercial strategy and activities in Latin America and Mexico?
We are the UN's special projects services unit, and we work under the umbrella and sponsorship of the UN General Assembly. An important distinction to other institutions within the UN system is that we do not receive any funding from UN member countries and our operations are entirely financed by our own projects, effectively running as if we were a private-sector company. Yet, we are not a for-profit organization and our main goal is to support mainly public institutions that are undertaking important infrastructure projects to contribute significantly to advancing a country or region's development agenda. We provide funding and technical assistance to the institutions we work with.

What are some of your main projects in Mexico?
We started operations in Mexico in March 2019 and, since then, we have been working closely with the central government. We have supported many transport-related projects with different levels of success. For example, we achieved a 38% cost reduction for the cable bus project and helped with the acquisitions of many transportation units, such as buses and wagons, for a lower cost than originally planned. Our main approach to business has been bringing public and private enterprises closer and increasing cooperation through instruments such as PPPs or concessions. At present, we are promoting the Mayan train renovations and new works on Mexico's federal district's subway. We are also collaborating with the foreign ministry's equipment to boost the security standards of Mexican documentation, such as passports.

How are you working with the government to create and improve the investment landscape in public projects?
In our experience, we have witnessed interest from the private sector and the international investment community to participate in all tenders. Just recently, we oversaw the public tenders for some segments of the railroad projects. The government has shown sincere interest in fighting corruption and, in our projects, we've been able to turn this interest into reality by considerably reducing costs and delays in projects that existed before due to bureaucracy and shady detours the projects sometimes took.

What are the main differences between the special business and policy dynamics in Mexico compared to other countries in Latin America?
The main difference is navigating the federal landscape and accounting for the different and sometimes opposite policy directions and objectives of the central and state governments. Adding to this, the fact that there are two separate systems and processes for tendering for publics works and for acquiring goods and services results in a complicated legal framework. There are currently some reforms planned for this, and a big lesson to learn from regional partners is to create a simple, transparent, and fair system for designing, tendering, and executing big projects. These reforms need to come along a strict and enforceable set of countercorruption measures with clear consequences for non-compliant parties. We have seen double-digit cost reduction in every policy reinforcement process we have worked on all over the region, and we are confident that the ability to adopt these practices are key for projects in Mexico. The economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic can only be resolved through job creation, which in turn is a consequence of investment.

What are UNOPS' main priorities for the rest of 2020?
We have two main goals for the rest of 2020 and 2021, which are obviously related to the COVID-19 crisis. On the first stage, we need to support Mexico and the rest of the region in enduring the economic implications of the lockdown and rupture of the global industrial supply chain. Then, we need to work on economic reactivation through promotion of investment opportunities that will lead to job creation and economic stimulation.