New Government Inherits US$ 97 Billion in Investments

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Infrastructure projects already contracted or engaged have an investment potential of US$ 97 billion over the next few years. Of the total, US$ 84 billion shall be invested in five years - that is, most will occur in President Jair Bolsonaro's government.

The survey was done by Itau BBA bank exclusively for the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo and takes into account federal infrastructure concessions.

They are works of the size of the BR-364/365 highway, which connects Uberlandia (MG) to Jatai (GO), or the North-South railroad, which has been under construction for about 30 years, but which has some parts in published bids and auction for March this year.

It is possible that the investment potential is even greater, according to Rogerio Yamashita, head of infrastructure and logistics in the project finance area of Itau BBA.

A local transportation specialist says: "We have talked to the government and it has a huge basket of projects to be carried out and they are not mapped here because they are still ideas. What we put in the forecasts are projects that have studies made".

The electricity sector is primarily responsible for these investments already mapped. Of the total amount, US$ 58 billion should be invested in new generation plants and transmission lines.

Next comes the transportation sector, with highway projects (US$ 23 billion), airports (US$ 9.7 billion) and railways (US$ 6.9 billion).

Investment volume far from ideal

The Ministry of Infrastructure will send to Congress a bill creating the ANT - National Transportation Agency - an "infrastructure super-agency", which will be formed by the merging of the ANTT - Land and Transportation Agency and the ANTAQ - Port Terminals Agency.

In a recent press interview, the Infrastructure Minister, Mr. Tarcisio Freitas said that when joined, the new "super-agency" will have only five directors. It is part of the Bolsonaro Government's "cleaning of the swamp", and tidying up administration. In practice, this means a cleanup at ANTT and Antaq, as current managers will have their terms terminated because of the creation of the new agency.

"The original project of 1999 already provided for the creation of a single transport agency," Tarcisio said.

"The former goverment ended up creating two agencies [ANTT and Antaq] and the result was that the notion of multimodal [integration of modes of transport] was lost."

For him, in an optimistic scenario, a significant resumption will occur in just three years, starting in 2022.

By 2019, investments in infrastructure are expected to represent 1.6% of Brazil's gross domestic product (GDP), according to the consultancy estimates. The rate would remain at a level similar to last year's, of 1.7% of the GDP.

"The level is still very low. Even if the government is to take action in all its dimensions, the resumption will begin only in 2020, and investments in infrastructure will reach an ideal level only at the end of the fourth year of Bolsonaro's mandate, at best," he says.

For him, the recovery will depend on factors such as structural reforms, improving the fiscal landscape and maintaining a qualified team to deal with infrastructure, among others.

The energy and highway sectors are expected to remain strong engines of growth. Considered more mature segments in regulatory terms, they present lower risks to investors, analysts say.

With the economy growing again, we will see even more auctions of power generation in the coming years, or higher hiring volumes. The same for the transmission line auctions.

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