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Integration to promote investment: an idea whose time should come

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

With the exception of a second-place finish by Guatemala’s Erick Barrondo in the racewalk, Central America won no medals in the London Olympics. Meanwhile, Colombia, with a similar population and ethnic mix, won eight medals, including a gold.

As in sport, so in business.

When it comes to foreign direct investment, Colombia finishes far ahead of Central America, which last year attracted $7.7 billion of FDI. By comparison, Colombia received $9.3 billion in just the first six months of this year, following a total of $13.2 billion in 2011.

It’s true that foreign capital is mainly interested in Colombia’s resources industries, mainly oil, gas, metals and minerals. Meanwhile, Central America has only a minimal amount of oil, and no gas, while two countries – Costa Rica and El Salvador – have suspended mining operations.

The biggest problem, however, is that the Central American countries are often too small to catch the eye of global investors. A possible solution would be to form a regional investment promotion agency, to replace those of each of the countries.

Initiatives to improve efficiency in Central America through greater economic integration have tended advance slowly. Just last week, half of the region’s the presidents failed to turn up for a summit of the Central American Integration System.

Still, the countries of the region have in recent years created a joint project to promote tourism on a regional basis.

Maybe ProCentroInvest is next.