The mayor of São Paulo City, Gilberto Kassab, believes that his city offers huge opportunities for foreign investors because it is the gateway to Brazil and Latin America.

According to the United Nations, greater São Paulo is the world’s fourth biggest metropolis with a population of 18.3 million people (the central city area that Mr Kassab runs has a population of 11 million).

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Mr Kassab, whose city government has an annual budget of $10bn and prioritises education and healthcare, says: “São Paulo is the single greatest economic centre for both Brazil and South America. Even if it still has to catch up with its infrastructural requirements, the most technologically advanced telecommunications are fully in place; the same applies to lodging facilities and to the urban equipment required for business activity.”

Good connections

He adds: “The city has direct air service to more than 23 countries. It is home to the vast majority of international corporations established on this continent. Its financial services sector ranks among the best in the world. Universities and research centres ensure qualified labour.”

Mr Kassab says that in the past the city’s public authorities have not been able to improve São Paulo’s infrastructure at the same pace as its robust economic growth. Recently, the authorities introduced new regulations allowing public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects and the mayor believes they create huge opportunities for foreign investors.

“Definitely, there are opportunities in infrastructure for foreign companies. São Paulo’s subway system is 100 kilometres short of the city’s estimated needs. The so-called ‘Line 4’ currently under construction is already an example of a public-private partnership. The same applies for São Paulo State roads, which are public concessions. Transportation alone provides massive ongoing opportunities,” he says.

“On top of this, considering several existing projects already planned – from a new world-class exhibition centre to a huge new airport, to name just a few – the opportunities for investment in infrastructure are abundant.”

According to the mayor’s office, Brazil attracts about $22bn of FDI a year, and São Paulo accounts for 15% of the national economy. Mr Kassab says the city’s exact proportion of national FDI could be greater than 15% because the headquarters for many businesses from other parts of the country are located there.

Top of the league

São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are often seen as rival cities in Brazil, but Mr Kassab believes his city clearly beats the other in terms of attracting foreign investment. “Just like Mexico City or Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro is a different kind of city – an outstanding one in so many ways, through its tourism potential, for example. However, the marketplace remains in São Paulo and that is why overseas companies would opt for it when opening a local branch.”

He also believes that São Paulo competes well with other important world cities. “Each city has its own qualities and advantages. Roughly speaking, we could name other global cities and compare them with São Paulo: cities such as Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, New York, cities that are active around the clock and which are meant for business making. Again, each one of them has its own location and circumstances. Yet, I dare to say that São Paulo, considering all its attributes, is in a league of its own.”

 

CURRICULUM VITAE: GILBERTO KASSAB

2006

São Paulo City

Mayor

2004

São Paulo City Council

Vice mayor

1998

Brazilian Congress

Federal deputy, Liberal Front Party

1995

São Paulo State

Deputy

1993

São Paulo City Council

Councilor