Sunday, January 8, 2012

Notes from Barranquilla, Colombia

The holiday season provided a great opportunity to catch up with family and friends in this Caribbean city, see the local soccer team, Atlético Junior, win another championship title and travel to Cartagena.  With a population of 1.4 million, the city is located in a coastal region that is a leader in Colombia’s economic growth. Notable personalities have included Edgar Renteria (2010 World Series Most Valuable Player - San Francisco Giants), Shakira (singer) and Sofía Vergara (actress – Modern Family) and its carnival festival is one of the biggest in the world.

While Colombia is often associated with drug cartels, paramilitary operatives and FARC leftist guerrillas, my visits since 1988 have provided insights into its positive economy development within Latin America.  Colombia’s political governance has improved, demand for its natural resources (including oil, natural gas and coal) has increased and tourism remains strong.  There is broad evidence of improved infrastructure (housing, transportation and telecommunication), better education and health services, and increased access to consumer goods (including malls, restaurants, etc.).  A recently signed Free Trade agreement with the U.S. may have a positive impact as well.  Amid the frequent discussions of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) investing, Colombia is among a broader set of developing countries which investors should become more familiar with.

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