Six months after making the decision to freeze the increase in toll rates in the country, as one of the measures to contain the increase in inflation, which last year closed at 13.12%, the Government began to study the possibility of anticipating the end of the measure.
(See: Freeze of toll rates would unleash a ‘rainstorm’ of lawsuits).
This determination would be given after the analysis of the noise that it generated in investors and financiers, as well as imbalances in the income projections of road projects for this year.
Although for 2023 the Ministry of Finance left an item of $500,000 million in the budget addition, In order to transfer the adjustment resources to the highway concessionaires, Portafolio was able to establish, with several sources from the Executive, that within the teams of the Finance and Transportation ministries, they have already begun to study this possibility.
Although the minister of Treasury, Ricardo Bonilla, told this medium that “That is not defined, it is hypothetical”Sources familiar with the subject explained that there is indeed an intention to resume the adjustment, to apply it possibly in August or September, but that an in-depth conversation on the subject with President Gustavo Petro is pending in order to make a decision.
“Really, there is still nothing concrete about this, not even scenarios. It is known that the tolls opened a gap for us and we have to raise them at some point ”specified the source, who pointed out that they do not want to reach a scenario in which it is necessary to create a toll price stabilization fund.
The foregoing because, according to other respondents, it is inconsistent that on the one hand the Government remains firm in the decision to close the gap in the Fuel Stabilization Fund (Fepc)but at the same time maintain the price of tolls at values of 2022, assuming a fiscal cost, even if it is in smaller amounts than in gasoline.
However, although Bonilla does not confirm or deny that the decision will be reversed, sources close to the Transportation portfolio explained that the possibility is being studied.
(See: The Reassurance Message to Concessionaires for Toll Resources.)
“We are in the exercise to start paying according to each of the sources that each of the concession contracts have with the $500,000 million. Regarding the increase in tolls, it is a scenario that we are working on that does not have a defined date and that will be indicated by the Minister of Transportation and the President of the Republic “a source told Portfolio.
This possible decision, however, not to the liking of cargo carrierswho reiterate that within this readjustment, the payment of tolls depending on the state of the road and the services they provide to their users must also be evaluated.
“Before talking about an increase in the price of tolls, it is important to generate a public toll policy that unifies those administered by the State, governorships, and mayoralties and in no case should they exceed inflation from one year to the next,” said Nidia Hernández, president of Colfecar.
It is worth remembering that the Government achieved in the budget addition $500,000 million to pay the concessions that could not increase their rateas dictated by the contracts, on January 15, 2023 (34 of 39 projects according to the ANI).
As recalled, this money would not be enough to pay off the Government’s debts with road concessions, since it is estimated that the readjustment could be between $800,000 million according to the accounts of the Colombian Chamber of Infrastructure (CCI)which would leave $300,000 million in the air, about which there is still no certainty as to how they would be financed.
(See: Toll rates will rise on eight roads in the country this year).
Likewise, this decision would put an end to the uncertainty that exists on the part of the financiers about the projects that seek funding for the works.
For this reason, Juan Martín Caicedo, president of the CCI, expressed in days past the need for an adjustment in the tariff scheme.
“The tariff scheme affected by the government decision at the beginning of the year must be updated as soon as possible. This is confirmed by Fedesarrollo on the one hand, and the Attorney General’s Office on the other.” explained.
Luck of Autopistas del Caribe, in suspense
The ‘No + Tolls Committee’ after several dialogue tables with the ANI to reach an agreement on the payment of the Turbaco toll, which is part of the concession project in charge of Autopistas del Caribe and is a fundamental part of the financing of the project , it did not reach an agreement with the Government on July 14, which led the Government to discuss the collection alternative.
This led to the possibility of an early settlement of the contract, the Ministry of Transport issued a resolution to extend the term of suspension of the Turbaco toll station until August 15, 2023.
This decision, like the previous one, will be in order to find a solution together with the project community.
However, the concession has shown that the non-collection of this toll makes the viability and continuation of the project impossible in the corridor of Cartagena-Barranquilla cargo.
Although the intention to reach an agreement is the main interest of the parties, The possibility of settling the contract in the future would still be on the table, which worries both the Government and the concession in charge of this 4G.
(See: Toll rates will not rise in 2023, the Government reported).
PAULA GALEANO BALAGUERA
ÓMAR G. AHUMADA ROJAS