BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
Local and foreign investors benefited greatly from the economic and security policies of President Alvaro Uribe the past eight years, according to a Latin Business Chronicle survey among prominent executives of U.S., European, Asian and Latin American multinationals.
“Business was impacted in nothing short of a dramatically positive manner,” says Alvaro Diago, COO for Latin America & Caribbean for UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group. “President Uribe backed his desire to further Colombia’s vast business potential with a series of initiatives that not only created confidence, but incentive to expand business. From his focus on increasing security on a national basis, to numerous pro-business incentives, we have seen a great deal of momentum during his tenure. Our company, IHG, has signed a number of franchising agreements with local Colombian enterprises who clearly feel as positive about the country’s business climate. It has been many years since we have seen this level of momentum and growth. As a Colombian-born individual, I am extremely proud of his accomplishments and desire to see the country build a solid business foundation.”
During Uribe’s eight-year term, Argentina-based Arcos Dorados – the world’s largest McDonald’s franchise - doubled the number of points of sales, including new McDonald's restaurants, dessert centers and McCafes, and obtained sales results that surpassed its expectations, says the company’s president and CEO Woods Staton. “Our company was very positively impacted by the Uribe presidency as was all of business in Colombia,” he says. “Colombia is emerging quickly as one of the leading growth stories of the region and it is in large part due to all that has been done to bring peace to Colombia.”
Baxter, the U.S. pharmaceutical and healthcare equipment maker, was able to significantly increase its presence in Colombia during Uribe, says Carlos Alonso, the company’s president for Latin America and Canada. “President Uribe’s tenure as president further stabilized Colombia’s political, social and economic environment,” he says. His policies improved government transparency and helped grow investments in healthcare, which led to significant improvements in patient care across the country.”
Yolanda Auza, General Manager for the LACSA Division at US-based Unisys, says the company’s Colombia operations went from maintenance operation to an investment operation.
”Our business has been positively impacted by higher economic growth and business activity (investments, expansion, etc) seen during President Uribe’s tenure,” says Marcelo Modai, Colombia Country Manager of UK-based Standard Chartered Bank. “From a commercial banking perspective this is specifically reflected in higher volumes of trade, financing requirements, capital markets and treasury transactions. The marked improvement in the local business environment has also raised interest of international companies in Colombia generating increased cross-border banking activity. Another interesting aspect is the internationalization of Colombian companies during the last few years, most recently the acquisition of BAC by Grupo Aval.”
US-based Cisco saw solid growth in Colombia during the past eight years, says Jaime Valles, President for Cisco Latin America. “President Alvaro Uribe’s government had a strong impact on the general business climate of the country, improving overall market conditions and placing Colombia again on the agenda and as one of the key emerging markets economies,”
Cisco wasn’t the only technology company benefiting from the Colombian growth story during Uribe. In the past eight years, the Colombia business of Germany-based SAP, the world’s largest business software maker, has nearly quadrupled, says Rodolpho Cardenuto, the company’s President and CEO for Latin America. “As a result, Colombia has emerged as one of our top priority markets for our company globally,” he says.
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