Edmundo Gamas
Director General
the Mexican Institute of Infrastructure Developement (IMEXDI)
View from the Top

Create Centralized Autonomous Body for Infrastructure

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 14:12

Q: What initiatives are needed to optimize cooperation between levels of government?

A: Mexico is in need of a national planning and delivery system for infrastructure. Our institute’s members are all participants in the infrastructure ecosystem and they all have a vested interest in ensuring that we have more high-quality infrastructure projects. We are fighting for the creation of an autonomous organization within the government, responsible for the planning and delivery of infrastructure projects. The processes required in infrastructure planning and delivery are complex and time consuming. In practice, this means that government entities, tied to electoral cycles, are simultaneously planning and tendering their infrastructure projects, leading to poor quality, delays and cost overruns. Other countries have centralized the planning and/or delivery of infrastructure in an autonomous governmental organization. Such centralized bodies are directed and staffed by technical professionals who are not tied to any particular political project. They integrate a project bank containing shovel-ready infrastructure developments so the government can simply draw on them. In Mexico, an autonomous organization like this could plan and deliver infrastructure projects for all levels of government and would be open to evaluating USPs.

Q: How do you perceive the NIP as the administration’s term winds down and what will be your role?

A: If PPPs had been established sooner projects in the NIP would have generated a lot more interest and bidding. The government’s planning departments are saturated with work as the end of their six-year term approaches, meaning there will be an increase in the number of infrastructure projects left on the “to be planned” list when the administration’s term concludes. There also are significant institutional bottlenecks, such as the Ministry of Finance’s Investment Unit, which must evaluate and sign off on each infrastructure project. Allowing the private sector to participate in the planning and evaluation of infrastructure projects would ease these bottlenecks but there has been no inclination in this direction. IMEXDI is attempting to help streamline infrastructure planning through the drafting of model laws, the design of toolkits, the establishment of protocols and the foundation of autonomous authorities.

Q: What is impeding the success of CompraNet and how important is Infranet?

A: In its early stages, CompraNet was envisioned as a transactional information model to streamline government purchasing processes. It was a successful tool and won international recognition but since then it has atrophied due to inefficient monitoring. A related problem with CompraNet is that its use has become entirely discretionary since officials decide what is uploaded, what is removed and there is no obligation to post the complete historical documentation of all infrastructure projects. Even documentation proven to be erroneous, or that which is superseded, should not be removed because civil society has a right to see how purchase processes unfold.

InfraNet was developed to ensure efficiency, control, accountability and transparency in the planning and delivery of infrastructure. This is a necessary system due to the complexity of infrastructure projects. This software will have to be designed ad hoc because it must display the complete life cycle of infrastructure projects, from planning, through delivery, operation and maintenance, to periodic performance evaluation.

Q: How attractive is Mexico as an investment destination compared with other emerging Latin American countries?

A: Our main competitors for investment into Latin America are the countries in the Pacific Alliance. Investors are paying less attention to other countries due to the problems inherent in their economies and development models. Brazil’s economy has drastically slowed down and it is not clear how long it will take for it to readjust or what type of system will emerge. Mexico’s biggest competitors at the moment are Chile, Peru and Columbia. That is concerning because Mexico is behind in its institutional framework, while countries like Peru and Columbia already have central infrastructure authorities that make their bidding processes more transparent and uniform, which makes investors happier.