Big opportunities for Indian Companies in sectors including agriculture, rural development and renewable energy in Colombia
There are huge opportunities in agriculture, rural development, renewable energy, infra both physical and human resource for Indian companies in Colombia, after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels (Spanish name FARC) decided to lay down arms. Speaking to The Financial Express Online on condition of anonymity, a senior diplomatic source said that, “There are huge opportunities for the Indian companies in the Infrastructure sector. The areas vacated by FARC lack basic infrastructure, roads, electricity, schools, low cost housing, drinking water, sanitation, establishing vocational training centres, promoting MSMEs etc.”
Adding, “These are the areas in which Indian companies have the technology and expertise of executing projects in India as well in other parts of the world such as in Africa, South and South East Asia.”
As reported by The Financial Express Online earlier, India had offered Colombia help in reconstruction following the end of 52 years of civil war, as part of a diplomatic drive in South America.
To a question if any new opportunities have emerged for the Indian Oil companies, the source pointed out that “The end of FARC conflict should open up exploration in new areas and basins that previously had a permanent FARC presence (for example, in parts of Caquetá and Putumayo).”
“Oil companies operating in Colombia plan to invest almost $5 billion next year, up 14 percent from this year. Oil companies invested $4.35 billion in 2018, most of which went into production and some $800 million into exploration,” the source said.
The industry in Colombia feels that exploration needs to be increased since investment remains at historically low levels with only 1,100 square kilometres of seismic tests undertaken.
Colombia has faced challenges to its oil industry that are unique in light of decades of internal armed conflict. Since the mid-1980s, guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), and subsequently the FARC, have relentlessly attacked oil installations and personnel through kidnappings, extortion, and sabotage of oil pipelines.
One of the key objectives of peace, as articulated by the government of that country is to empower communities that have been abandoned by the state and subject to the influence of illegal armed groups.
According to the source, “Many communities in oil producing regions are already quite active in expressing their grievances. This situation is unlikely to change; in fact, protests and work stoppages could actually increase as fear recedes.” The local government has not awarded new areas for exploration in the last four years. The South American nation’s proven oil reserves were 1.78 billion barrels at the end of 2017, equivalent to 5.7 years of consumption.
Colombia has cancelled two auctions of rights to explore for oil in dozens of areas and plans to re-launch bidding early next year. Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of FARC, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias ‘Timochenko’, in 2016 had inked an accord setting out the timetable for FARC to lay down arms and become a political organisation.
The FARC is now a political party and several members have taken seats in parliament as part of the peace terms. The FARC’s fighters have demobilised and handed in their weapons, the group has turned itself into a political party and taken up seats in parliament. However, hundreds of FARC guerrillas refused to sign up the deal and are still at large. They have also been joined by other dissidents, disillusioned with the pace of implementation. Another challenge the government in that country faces is that drug trafficking gangs have moved into areas once controlled by FARC guerrillas.
President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia, reiterating that he remains committed to Colombia’s peace process, had in his inaugural address on Aug 7, extended the olive branch to peace and promised to look for opportunities for ex-guerrillas and the provision of resources for the entire country and especially for areas that have been hit by violence.