Panel members included Reinaldo Garcia (President and Chief Executive Officer, Latin America, GE Brasil, Brazil); Enrique García Rodríguez (President and Chief Executive Officer, CAF - Development Bank of Latin America, Caracas; Global Agenda Council on Latin America); Roberto R. Roy (Minister of Canal Affairs of Panama); Zhang Sen (Vice-President, Huawei Technologies); and Lee A. McIntire (Executive Chairman, CH2M HILL Companies, USA).
The panel was quite engaging, specifically during their debate about implementing good projects – ones that both benefit society and are well executed. Part of this relates to good planning and good public engagement.
While some of the panelists focused on the mechanics of a deal, project economics, social benefits, or environmental impact, others believed a project really couldn’t be judged until twenty or thirty years after being completed. The one-hundred year old Panama Canal as the backdrop of the previous night’s WEF Latam 2014 reception, served as a reminder of a project’s duration and how benefit can be measured over time.
Several key themes rose to the surface during a discussion about providing a middle-class or prosperity dividend to those in Latin America who have become part of the middle-class for the first time. While this growing middle-class expresses real need for things like satellite televisions and mobile phones, this is countered with the challenges of commuting to work and access to clean drinking water –something related to the prosperity dividend for the middle-class that struck a number of panel members.
The issue of human capital was also touched on as it relates to large markets like Brazil or China, or smaller markets like Panama. With a strong focus on education and discussion about the need for a skilled workforce to develop the sector, the panelists provided a number of great perspectives – from contract engineering, to the perspective of a government official, to the views of a technology supplier.
An important issue was also raised by Minister Roberto Roy around project development timelines. With government officials like the Minister often facing election cycles, or project management teams changing numerous times over the development of a project, the panel agreed that all participants in a project would operate under the real challenges of shifting timelines.
Finally, the panel closed the session by focusing on the success or failure of a project, which all agreed was a shared responsibility of both the public and private sectors. Both the audience and panelists agreed that a fair sharing of risks is not about who can push the hardest, will be the beginning of a very successful project.