$2.44 billion USD government spending delayed
The global fall in the price of oil has caused the Colombian government to delay $2.44 billion USD in planned government spending. $1.95 billion USD is to be cut from the investment budget, taking away from badly needed infrastructure investment, and $488 million USD will be lost from administrative costs. Speaking at an business conference in Spain during a state visit, President Santos explained that the government was “adjusting to a new reality” and did not want to assume that oil prices would increase again.
Unemployment continues to fall
Colombian statistics agency DANE reported that the unemployment rate for January 2015 was 10.8 percent, the lowest level for 15 years. In 2014, the average unemployment rate across the year was 0.5 percent lower than the year before.
Lending rates remain at 4.5%
Colombia’s Central Bank voted to keep the lending rate at 4.5 percent for the sixth month running. Inflation is nearing the upper of the Banco de la Republica’s 2-4 percent target range but some economists expect continued low oil prices to put pressure on GDP growth, which may force BanRep to cut rates later in the year.
Colombia’s national energy planning agency UPME predicted that coal production for 2015 would be 10 percent higher than last year. The agency forecasted that the country would produce 97.8 million tonnes of coal in the year to come.
Coal railway operator Fenoco is seeking to reverse a Constitutional Court ban on their nighttime transportation. The ban, which was introduced as a result of noise complaints, prevents the running of trains between 10.30pm and 4.30am. Mining and Energy Minister Tomás González told Bloomberg that he fears the court’s decision will restrict an eighth of the country’s coal production.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Canacol Energy announced that it would focus its reduced 2015 spending on gas rather than oil. Chief Executive Charle Gamba also said that the company expects gas prices to rise further.
Colombia’s leading cement and concrete company, Cementos Argos, reported a 59 percent rise in net profits for 2014. The company, which is active in 12 countries across the Americas, announced total sales of $2,908 million USD and net profits of $145 million USD. Cementos Argos plans to cement its growth in Colombia over the next three years with a $585 million investment plan.
Arrest warrants for Italian constructors
The Attorney General’s office has issued warrants for the arrest of two workers from Italian construction company SICIM and three members of the ELN. According to Reuters, the Attorney General has recordings of phone calls that show the company paid protection money during the first phase of construction of the Bicentenario oil pipeline.