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Latin America-Development plan approved by Congress

The Development Plan is the government's guideline for its four year presidential term. It contains the general objectives, programmes and investment projects, including their correspondent resources, that the government aims to accomplish in areas such as health, education, housing, agriculture, public utilities, foreign trade, telecommunications and infrastructure. The plan contains two sections, a general overview and the Investment Plan itself. According to the Colombian Constitution, the Investment Plan is a law which prevails over other laws, and therefore, the government may use it to introduce important changes in all the aforementioned areas.

The Development Plan for the years 1999-2003, was approved by Congress on May 5 1999, and will be signed by the president in the next few days. Its implementation will demand resources of approximately $40 billion. With the Plan, the government is seeking: to increase privatizations, exports and foreign investment; to diminish the rate of unemployment to 10 -12%, build approximately 500,000 housing units, extend and improve public health and education resources, to improve the transportation infrastructure, to aid the agricultural sector, reconstruct the coffee growing region, support the decentralization process, to strengthen the military forces, guarantee crude oil reserves for the immediate future by increasing exploration and exploitation of oil wells in association with third parties, and to establish a Peace Fund to help the regions most affected by the internal armed conflict.

To be able to accomplish these objectives, the government introduced the following:

(i) Income tax exemptions for commercial, industrial and agriculture enterprises establishing business in the municipalities affected by the recent earthquake of January 25, 1999;
(ii) Harmonization of Colombia's custom duties for agricultural products with the World Trade Organization's and the Andean Community's custom duties;
(iii) A deadline to end the extralegal subsidies that are granted in the electrical and water supply services;
(iv) Project finance of public roads through the simultaneous charge of a valorization tax and tolls. The sum of both will not be greater than the total cost of the investment;
(v) The provision of the basic international telecommunication services through the indirect operation of different carriers. Also that foreign investment in this area shall be governed by the Law 9 of 199??, which means national treatment;
(vi) Completion of the import and export procedures of goods, services, and, technology, in order to simplify and unify such procedures; and
(vii) Drafting of the procedures under which Colombia can participate in association with a private party in infrastructure projects. Alejandro Linares Cantillo and Maria Eugenia Lloreda

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