BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazil's government plans to fast track the infrastructure process necessary to avoid bottlenecks at the country's airports as they handle expected large volumes of passengers in connection with the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, an official says.
"We have a very fast track action on airports [and] are working hard to avoid any bottlenecks," Luciano Coutinho, president of Brazil's development bank BNDES, said during a meeting on infrastructure at the World Economic Forum Latin America here.
His comment came after Latin Business Chronicle had asked another official, Henrique Merirelles, to comment on critics who say Brazil is not prepared to handle the volume. Meirelles, a widely respected former central bank president, was recently named by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to head up the government's efforts to prepare for the Olympic Games scheduled to be held in this city in five years.
"I think this [Brazil being prepared] is possible," he said in reply to the question from Latin Business Chronicle.
Meanwhile, a leading private sector executive in the construction sector pointed out that Brazilian airports are used to having large-scale events. "It's not the first time Brazil handles that volume," said Felipe Jens, CEO of Odebrecht Participacoes e Investimentos. He mentioned carnival as one example.
However, the current capacity of Brazilian airports -- especially the Sao Paulo airport Guarulhos -- to efficiently handle traffic is an issue frequently complained about by both local and foreign investors. Business travelers named Guarulhos the worst airport in Latin America, according to the latest reader survey by Latin Trade magazine.
The chief of staff of President Rousseff announced Tuesday that the government planned to privatize the management of the country's top five airports - a move welcomed by many investors.
"It's a huge step forward," Jens said.
The challenge of Brazilian airports are not unique in Latin America. Inefficient infrastructure is a common problem throughout the region, business executives say. "They all lack proper infrastructure," said Hernan Moreno, Latin America president of Sweden-based Skanska, Scandinavia's largest construction and property development group.
Norman Anderson, president and CEO of consultancy CG/LA Infrastructure, agreed. "It's clear that Latin America doesn't invest enough in infrastructure," he said.
Latin America needs to spend five to six percent of its GDP on infrastructure rather than only two percent, like it does today, said Luis Alvarez Satorre, president for Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa for British Telecom.
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