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Bruno Covas, the mayor of São Paulo, tells Sebastian Shehadi about how the metropolis’s bold privatisation programme can combat Brazil’s ongoing financial and political difficulties and provide an example to the rest of the country.

Q: What are the best foreign investment opportunities in São Paulo?

A: Over the past few years, the city of São Paulo has begun selling state-owned assets in several areas of the city, such as the IMB [an exhibition centre], Interlagos [the city’s Formula 1 track] and all the other racetracks as well. There has been a very large programme of concessions, such as for parks, including Ibirapuera – one of the most visited parks in Brazil – and also the football stadium of Pacaembu. We have opportunities in transport, funeral services, sports and parks, and we are searching for international partners with expertise in these areas.

The city of São Paulo is the economic capital and most populous city in Brazil and Latin America. It not only offers local return on investment, but spreads wealth in Latin America. Our privatisation programme will generate opportunities in other Brazilian cities.

Q: What else makes São Paulo attractive to FDI?

A: We have infrastructure: the port of Santos, the airport of Guarulhos and the key motorways leaving from São Paulo that are interconnected with road networks. We also have the right the quality of life, hospitals and human resources, and the number of universities in the city is very large. We are hoping to reduce red tape, especially for opening a company in São Paulo. It used to take 130 days, but now you can do it in less than a week. This entire process of privatisation is taking place with the approval of several bills in the municipal chambers, so we have all the legal support.

Q: What is the greatest business challenge in São Paulo?

A: The city is part of a country that is experiencing several difficulties. Brazil is starting to emerge from a crisis that has lasted a few years. It is an economic crisis, a political crisis and a moral crisis, and the city of São Paulo is experiencing it as well. There is an understanding that the public sector and public power is participating too much in the economy, and that we need to focus on what is essential for the population: education, health, transport, security, social welfare. We understand that private partners can bring resources for the city but also will be able to provide better services than the public [bodies] currently do, in areas such as the environment, sports, events and gastronomy. We want this private sector partnership to serve as an example for the country to overcome the current crisis.

Q: You visited London [in June]. What have you seen in the city that could work in São Paulo?

A: We see London as the tech capital of Europe and we really want to foster this in São Paulo too. Investment in technology is essential for a city to survive.

I’d like to emphasise that our privatisation programme started with very few suggestions from the public sector, and that it was the private sector that identified opportunities that we had missed. The Brazilian legal framework allowed the private sector to present ideas for partnerships that are then analysed by the public sector. We have a programme that has not been concluded. It is open to other ideas for private partnerships that are currently not on our radar.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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