The $22bn roads plan

“We are going to do more in two years than we’ve done over the last 20 years, when we awarded some COP25 billion (€11 billion; $14 billion) of works,” proclaimed  Luis Fernando Andrade Moreno, president of Colombia’s National Infrastructure Agency (NIA).

It’s not the first time Moreno has pronounced these words – he told Infrastructure Investor exactly the same earlier in April. That he reiterated them in front of some 450 domestic and international investors at the official launch of Colombia’s COP40 billion road concessions programme underlines that the Colombian government means business.

NIA said some 114 firms from places like China, India, the US, Australia, Portugal, Brazil and Japan, among other countries, attended the unveiling of the roads plan on Wednesday.

“This is the biggest package in the history of the country when it comes to investments in transport infrastructure. We hope this programme will help eliminate the lag we have been accumulating over the last few decades,” Moreno added.

Colombia, under the stewardship of NIA, is getting ready to tender some 8,000 kilometres of roads over the next six years. It’ll start launching projects in December, when a first batch of six roads worth some COP7.5 billion is due to come to market.

The road projects will be procured under Colombia’s new public-private partnership (PPP) law, approved last December, with concessionaires receiving availability payments from the government in exchange for maintaining the roads in good condition.

The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, as well as Latin America development bank Corporacion Andina del Fomento helped Colombia draft the new PPP law and plan its concessions programme.

As part of the announcement, NIA said it was “also working on a new financing scheme to allow the capital markets and institutional investors to access the proposed transport infrastructure investment”.

Colombia has been growing at an average of some 5 percent per year, and, despite a history of drug-fuelled violence and internal warfare, has been awarded investment grade ratings.

According to the Financial Times, some estimates place the country’s 2012 output at $370 billion, which would see Colombia surpass Argentina to become Latin America’s third-largest economy, after Brazil and Mexico.