Fuss about tolls and roads

The deputy, following the pre-established script of singing the same serenades as false as they are liars against the projects of public-private alliances, they ask him a question that leaves him as speechless as Chaplin’s films: “Deputy, and you which road? used when going to the coast? The one on the Palín highway or the old highway to Escuintla? Stammering and stuttering …

The answer is obvious. The deputy, like everyone who travels the roads of the country, be it a farmer with his harvest loaded in a pickax, a teacher on his motorcycle, a small merchant or anyone who needs to move from one place to another, they will tell you, in all likelihood, they gladly pay for a service that saves them time, money, and convenience.

I remember in my ESTEOESTE television program, a few years ago, a discussion about the Law of Public-Private Partnerships with analysts and ministers. One of them said something very true: “The governments do not have enough funds to cover all the investment needs of the country, because, taking the case of Guatemala as an example, of each quetzal that comes in, only 17 cents are left for investment; the rest is for operation, constitutional situation and debt service ”.

There is currently a portfolio of PPP projects of more than Q11 billion. The potential is very great for ports, airports, highways, hospitals and even mass public transport services. The Escuintla to Puerto Quetzal highway, which caused so much fuss for its approval, due to unfounded and politically motivated objections, stood in Congress for three years. It is the worst message that could have been sent to potential investors who want to invest in Guatemala under clear and defined rules. Regrettable to admit it, but there are too many perverse incentives if each project must be approved by the deputies. Thank God a contract was approved that was already closed. Excuses about use and cost to neighboring communities is an issue for which the answers were already in place before they were raised. But that was the excuse.

On Sunday there was another collapse on the Chimaltenango highway. Would this have happened if the road was a PPP project? Of course not. That is the advantage of having insurance, realistic and functional contractual conditions, suitable designs and, of course, sufficient income generated by the users themselves.

The VAS is a completely private project. It works like a Swiss watch. The state of the highway is perfect. Nobody claims; all users gladly pay the time savings for the service they receive.

I recently traveled to Coatepeque. What a disaster to have to walk over the corpse of Odebrecht! With frequent, dangerous and surprising detours; holes, bad signage, traffic jams, and driving at night, an attempt on life. Worthy to analyze as a case study, comparing it with the PPP projects.

The highway to the west is another pathetic case. It should be called a “tire breaker” road. Also the best example of the “karma” of granting certain stretches “hitchhiking” to “pipiripao” companies. The difference between the serious companies they built is that the stretches are in perfect condition there. I will not attempt to address the urgent need to pass the Road Infrastructure Law. It is enough to know that the Escuintla-Puerto Quetzal highway opens the doors to an era of great potential for PPP projects for the economic development of the country. And hopefully that would also lead so that, one day, Guatemala could have a “dry canal”. It would be a historic milestone.


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