Colombia seeing investment growth as safety fears ease

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CARTAGENA, Colombia — Investors have been flocking to Colombia, with the country seeing record-breaking investments for three years in a row.

“We have investment grade from major agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s as being one of the ideal places to invest,” said Miguel Angel Franco Hossain, senior tourism specialist with Proexport Colombia, the government group charged with increasing tourism and exports in the country.

Colombia rated as the fifth country out of 142 for being more friendly for investors to do business, Hossain said. The country is looking to create a Pacific alliance similar to that of the BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia, India and China — to remove barriers for export.

Colombia is strengthening its Free Trade Agreements in hopes that more boat builders and other industry will do business there.

Colombia is strengthening its free trade agreements in hopes that more boatbuilders and other companies will do business there.

“The conditions, requirements and legal procedures are easier than other countries,” Hossain said.

But one of the major hurdles Colombia faces in trying to increase its boating industry has been the widely held stigma that the country is unsafe.

“Most people in other countries don’t know what’s in Colombia,” Hossain said during a press presentation designed by Proexport to help journalists understand the country better. “There have been negative perceptions of security issues in Colombia, but that has all changed in the last 10 or 15 years.”

Fifteen years ago “it was a different country,” Hossain said. “Cartagena has been a safe city, but if you went to Bogota or other places, it was very sad. There was so much bad news at that time. Now it’s different, and more safe. People are beginning to have more business. People are looking from the outside world and saying it’s good to do business here.”

The change is attributable to a mix of things, Hossain said. “For instance, the security issue was the big thing that has changed. Everybody was kind of scared, but the government began cracking down with results. All the statistics of kidnapping are going down because the government took care of it.”

People began feeling safer in Colombia because of its economic growth, Hossain said.

“So people started — we as Colombians — started believing again in our country, and we're working harder than we used to,” he said. “People started believing in our country, and that changed it a lot, too. It shows in the statistics.”

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