Peru, Bolivia study bi-oceanic railway, Ilo port projects

Monday, September 4, 2017

Both seeking to jump-start their stagnant economies, Andean neighbors Peru and Bolivia agreed to accelerate work on port and rail projects to spur regional trade.

Studies are underway on the US$20bn bi-oceanic railway to link the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, said President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski after meeting with his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales at the presidential palace in Lima.

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The two countries are also looking to develop a Bolivian port concession in the southern Peruvian coastal city of Ilo dubbed BoliviaMar, Kuczynski said.

"We're thinking of the bi-oceanic railway. Not through the Amazon jungle, which needs to be conserved, but over the highlands through Bolivia and down to the Peruvian coast," Kuczynski said in broadcast comments.

"I'm convinced this project will become a reality and that we'll be able to further link our countries."

Government officials from the countries with a vested interest in the railway project - Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay - are scheduled to meet about it in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba on September 15-16, Bolivian public works minister Milton Claros told state Radio Patria Nueva.

The two presidents signed an accord called the declaration of Lima, which involves further cooperation in the areas of labor, education and health, while Morales announced a gas exporters conference to be held in Santa Cruz on November 24.

While Morales has pledged US$48.6bn in infrastructure and energy investments over the next five years, his government is struggling to line up financing as economic growth slowed. Kuczynski, meanwhile, is battling to eliminate bureaucratic obstacles to US$25bn in infrastructure concessions and begin rebuilding Peru's flood-devastated north coast.

Morales, a former union leader who has expropriated assets from oil, mining, water, pension funds and telecommunications companies, and Kuczynski, a former investment banker who backs free-market policies, have rarely seen eye to eye, clashing in recent months over how to deal with the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

"I'd like to take advantage of this occasion to point out that the nationalization of natural resources is key to increasing revenues," Morales said in a broadcast ceremony. "We don't need external agents to intervene or international organizations to come and solve our problems. It's important to emphasize our sovereignty in the face of any threat of interventionism."

The meeting marks an about-face for Kuczynski, who last year said Peru preferred to focus on building a coastal railway running from Barranca-Ica to ease traffic on the country's clogged Pan American highway.