Interview: Cecilia Álvarez-Correa

Fourth-generation infrastructure projects are mostly in pre-qualification stages at present. What can be expected to be achieved for 2014?

CECILIA ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: National and international contenders that prequalified for the more than 20 projects from the so-called fourth generation have been adequately examined throughout 2013 and their technical and financial capability proven. The tender is now therefore limited to the economic proposal, ensuring transparency and flexibility in the process.

In addition, in 2013 we opened nine key tenders for projects where all the feasibility studies (technical, environmental and financial) have been completed, guaranteeing the contracts will be awarded in the best conditions possible. The passing of the Infrastructure Act will help to address problems related to property negotiations, the environment and utility networks, which have hindered the projects issued up until now. In 2014, in addition to awarding those nine key concessions, we will tender at least 10 more.

How will the new Infrastructure Act help expedite construction projects?

ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: The Infrastructure Act was created to solve issues that have been identified as bottlenecks in terms of infrastructure development. The law enables property negotiations to be executed expeditiously and, by clearly defining environmental requirements, it will be possible to ensure that compliance does not constitute a barrier to work.

Furthermore, we have injected clarity into the rules on conflict management concerning mining rights and utility networks. The rule now states that if a conflict happens within the development of infrastructure, projects can continue without the need to suspend them until reaching an agreement with the owner of the network or the mining permit. Finally, in relation to dealings with communities, the government has clarified the “prior consultation” process through Decree 2613 and Presidential Directive 10 of 2013.

In what ways is the state helping to reduce risks for firms involved in fourth-generation projects?

ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: The public sector has held discussions with all the stakeholders to identify their concerns. Together with the Ministry of Finance, we have worked to precisely identify the contractual risks for investors and builders. The risks assumed by the private sector are the ones they are in a better position to take. The state shares the risk for any change in the law, absorbing any change in taxes that impact annual gross incomes by over 3% (excluding income tax).

What are the most urgent needs for airports?

ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: El Dorado International Airport has several priorities listed in the transportation plan, including the construction of a taxiway; a new control tower and aircraft management centre; an expansion of the main runway; and a new passenger terminal. Nationwide, key airports are working to obtain international certification in accordance with the guidelines established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. At present the National Infrastructure Agency and Aerocivil are working on designs or works for El Dorado, Cali, Cartagena, San Andrés, Bucaramanga, Rionegro (Medellín) and Leticia. These works are worth nearly COP250bn ($122m).

What are your key priorities in relation to the country’s port development?

ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: The key priority is to increase the installed capacity on the two Colombian coasts, with an emphasis on public services for handling coal and hydrocarbons. Public service concessions are high on our agenda. The National Planning Department has concluded that a new coal export hub is needed on the Atlantic coast, as well as a rail link connecting the port to the central rail system. The Pacific coast will need to expand its oil port infrastructure in the south. We are working on connectivity plans between port terminals and major roads, railways and river routes.