In accepting the role of investment minister, 37-year-old Leo Starkman Milla has shown that he is not afraid of a challenge and he is just the kind of youthful and flexible livewire that Honduran investment needs.

During a recent visit by fDi magazine to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, Mr Starkman found time to talk, even given less than 24 hours’ notice, and was full of ideas about how to improve his country’s investment environment. “We have an open-door policy. Investors can meet with the president if they wish,” he says.

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One of his ideas is to make the entire Bay Islands area off the country’s Caribbean coast a free trade zone to boost development of hotels and other tourism facilities; another is to apply the principles that have worked in attracting textile investment to the country to other areas of manufacturing, such as automotive harnesses.

Mr Starkman says that his ministry has defined four requirements that investors will have: abundant energy at competitive prices, efficient logistics, an efficient labour force and standard rules.

The need for standard rules should be met by the Central America Free Trade Agreement and the logistics by the port of Puerto Cortés, which has been declared a secure port by the US authorities, enabling it to act as a trans-shipment point to the US.

“We have the largest and most efficient port in the region,” notes Mr Starkman.

Honduras has established minimum wage levels by geographical area to encourage investment away from the industrial area of San Pedro Sula, where Mr Starkman’s family business Remsa is based. He ran the company before taking up political office.

“Energy is our biggest headache,” says Mr Starkman. He goes on to talk about a massive hydroelectric plan for Honduras. As in every country, there are political obstacles to negotiate but if there is a way, Mr Starkman will probably find it.