U.S. industry and technology giant General Electric (GE) has started to assemble infrastructure project proposals for infrastructure development opportunities in Colombia.
Since last year, when Colombia’s congress ushered in a new law that lets private companies form partnerships with public entities, GE and other companies have begun to propose ways to develop Colombia’s infrastructure.
“Within the fields of industry where GE has skills and technology, in which we find major opportunity in the country, are health and transportation,” President of GE Colombia Fabiola Sojet told local media.
Though GE has historically been interested in Colombia for its healthcare development, right now GE is partnering with other companies like construction firms in order to leverage its technology arm for infrastructure projects like roads and rails.
GE is interested in the opportunities that come with Colombia’s private-public partnerships. “Some of the benefits of [Colombia’s] private-public partnerships is that it allows for the establishment of a consortium where different companies can join,” explained Sojet. That lets GE, as the providers of technology, to partner with one company that specializes in construction and another that structures the project and puts up the capital for it.
Sojet views Colombia as ripe for foreign investment. “Colombia is currently one of the most attractive countries in the region for investment,” the executive told The Business Year. “This is the result of continued policies to open doors to foreign investment and to create legal stability and an attractive environment for FDI. Colombia has a little bit of everything… it also has a strong industrial sector, even though more infrastructure development is necessary.”
World Bank Colombia Director Gloria Grandolini in a recent press conference echoed GE’s view of transportation infrastructure as a high priority on the development agenda. Grandolini told Colombia Reports that one of Colombia’s greatest short term challenges is its infrastructure development.
“We see infrastructure development as a good opportunity for private investment,” said Grandolini.
But Colombia policymakers and the World Bank are not the only ones crying out for an infrastructure upgrade. Last week Juan Manuel Santos met with leaders of Chile, Peru and Mexico in order to lay the groundwork for a new trade block called the Pacific Alliance, which promotes free trade within the block with a focus on Asia’s booming market. There, Colombian business leaders pleaded for better infrastructure in order to stay competitive in the Pacific Alliance.
“One of the features of taking advantage of the Pacific Alliance is its competitiveness,” said a businessman in Cali during the inauguration of the trade block. “And competitiveness in the business sector comes from the improvement in infrastructure.”
GE grew 30% in Latin America in 2011. Sojet, who is charged with directing the Northern region of South America, has said that she expects GE’s Latin America weighting to grow from its current 6% to 10% by 2015. Colombia’s growth, she says, is likely to be a part of that push.
But even though the investment climate if favorable, Sojet points out how some things leave much to be desired when doing business in Colombia.
“Colombia needs to be better at execution,” said the Colombian-born GE executive. “We are very good at planning, have a very high level of education, and have creative and strategic thinkers, excellent economists, the best lawyers, and good statisticians, but at the point of execution we find a way to be slow.”
Source: Colombia Reports