Brazil looks to private sector to bolster infrastructure

August 16th, 2012 - 11:33 am ICT by IANS  

Brasilia, Aug 16 (IANS/EFE) President Dilma Rousseff has unveiled a 133 billion reais ($65.5 billion) plan to improve Brazil’s infrastructure and spur economic growth.

The plan, which will involve awarding private firms concessions for the construction of nearly 7,500 km of highways and 10,000 km of railways, is aimed at improving links between productive areas and the country’s seaports and airports.

“We want to use the best of private initiative and use the best of the Brazilian government,” making “good use of public funds” to modernize the country and make it more efficient, the president said Wednesday.

“What we’re proposing are some very attractive (public-private) joint ventures in terms of profit and risk,” she said.

The president said Brazil has become the world’s sixth-largest economy despite a lot of “bottlenecks” that must be removed to put the country on a path to “accelerated and sustained” growth.

Transport Minister Paulo Sergio Passos provided details of the plan, saying the investments will be channeled over a period of 25 years.

Over the first five years, 79.5 billion reais ($39.75 billion) worth of concessions will be awarded to private-sector firms.

The minister also said a new public company will be created to auction a license for the construction of a high-speed railway linking Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, a project stalled for the past five years.

The government will facilitate the investments through loans from state-run banks at below-market interest rates.

Passos said these new investments and concessions will help jumpstart Brazil’s stalled economy, whose growth forecast for this year has been lowered from 4 percent to less than 2 percent.

This new programme is Brazil’s third large-scale infrastructure plan since 2006.

The previous programmes - two different versions of the Growth Acceleration Program, or PAC - have not yet been completed and are advancing at a snail’s pace, according to the government, which says the delays are partly due to bureaucratic red tape.

Wednesday’s announcement was made at a ceremony at the presidential palace attended by executives of more than two-dozen large construction companies, including Eike Batista, Brazil’s richest person, who has expressed interest in the latest investment plan.

“Brazil has barely invested in infrastructure over the past 20 years and therefore this ‘mega-package’ will be fantastic for the country and for business leaders,” Batista said.


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