Latin American infrastructure projects valued at more than $1000bn create huge opportunities for foreign companies and investors, according to experts at the Fourth Latin American Investment Forum. Hundreds of delegates at the forum – which was organised by the Latin American Trade and Investment Association (Latia) and took place in London on May 7, 2014– heard that Brazil plans to invest up to $900bn in infrastructure during the rest of the decade, with a large proportion of this destined for energy projects. Mexico – whose president Enrique Peña Nieto is pushing fundamental reforms of the energy and telecommunications sectors – expects to invest up to $300bn in infrastructure in the next four years.

Many other Latin American countries have embarked on huge infrastructure programmes – including Colombia, which is putting out to tender 40 projects to build some 8000 kilometres (km) of roads, with a total investment of $25bn, during the next seven years.

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Peru’s Association for the Promotion of National Infrastructure estimates that the country must invest up to $80bn to fill the country’s infrastructure deficit, with the largest gaps in energy, transportation and sanitation (water/waste disposal). It expects to sign contracts for close to $15bn this year, including $6bn for the second line of the metro in the capital city, Lima, and a $4bn natural gas pipeline.

Between 2008 and 2011, infrastructure investment in Latin America amounted to $440bn, according to the Development Bank of Latin America. Most was destined for transportation projects. The amount invested is expected to soar in coming years.

“One of our government’s most important goals is to reinvigorate the relationship between the UK and its old friends in Latin America,” John Hayes, minister without portfolio in the UK government, told Latia delegates. “There are huge opportunities between the UK and Latin America, especially in infrastructure.”

He said that among the region’s main projects were the new metro systems of Lima and Panama City (a 13.7km metro line with a total investment of more than $1.8bn). Other important projects include Guatemala's $12bn interoceanic ‘dry corridor’ – a 373km highway and railroad linking the country’s Pacific and Atlantic coasts by 2019 – and Nicaragua's $50bn Interoceanic Grand Canal (backed by Chinese entrepreneur, Wang Jing, who was awarded a no-bid 50-year renewable concession by the Nicaraguan government in June last year).

The Panama Canal is also undergoing a $5bn expansion that should double its capacity by the middle of next year.