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Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra (AMVA) – the regional coordinating agency for Medellin metro governments – announced May 8 a new rotation schedule for “pico y cedula” shopping trips starting May 11 and then  another, new rotation on May 18.

As a result, people with Colombia cedula numbers ending in 7 or 8 can venture out on Monday, May 11, while people with cedulas ending in 9 and 0 can venture out Tuesday, May 12, with successive day/number rotations according to the AMVA chart (see above).

The "pico y cedula" regulation aims to reduce potential for Coronavirus cross-contamination in otherwise-crowded supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and -- starting May 11 -- certain other quarantine-exempt locations during the national Coronavirus crisis. Workers in quarantine-exempt industries that meet biosafety protocols and also are registered with the "Medellin Me Cuida" program aren't limited by "pico y cedula," according to AMVA.

Then, on Monday, May 18, a new rotation series starts, with cedulas ending in 2 or 3 authorized for shopping trips on that Monday, while people with cedulas ending in 4 or 5 can venture out on Tuesday, May 19, and then successive numbers/days (see chart above).

The “pico y cedula” restriction applies to Medellin, Barbosa, Itagüí, Caldas, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Envigado, Bello, Copacabana and Girardota, according to AMVA.

Under new Colombia government regulations taking effect May 11, “pico y cedula” gives people new options to go to bookstores, office-supply stores, hardware stores, pet stores, paint stores, glass stores, lumber suppliers, locksmiths, vehicle repairs and inspection stations, in addition to existing permissions for grocery, banking, clinic and pharmacy trips.


The Viva Malls subsidiary of Medellin-based Grupo Exito announced May 7 the launch of “Viva Online” (see: https://www.exito.com/viva-online) so that quarantine-bound customers can order dozens of commercial products -- and then either pick them up at designated, virus-free mall sites or else have them safely home-delivered.

“Viva Online will offer shopping experiences with more than 50 brands, as well as virtual entertainment activities for all tastes,” according to a press bulletin from Grupo Exito.

“With the new service, Viva will make life easier for its clients, bringing them the brands and preferred products to their homes under the most rigorous biosecurity measures.

“Additionally, we have brand implemented the ‘Buy and Collect’ model in 12 of our shopping centers in the country. Through this service, orders are delivered directly to the customer’s means of transport [cars] and to specific areas designated for this purpose,” according to the company.

“We transcend the physical spaces of the shopping malls and we enable a virtual space that mixes the shopping experience, with differential and exciting activities for our clients,” said Juan Lucas Vega Palacio, Grupo Exito real estate vice president.

“In addition, we put Viva online at the service of other brands of entrepreneurs and small companies that are not necessarily in the shopping centers and that do not have e-commerce platforms, which will allow them to become visible and offer their products directly to end customers,” he added.

With the “Domicilios Viva” home-delivery service, some 100 brands can now reach the customers’ place of residence, according to the company.

“People place their orders through the WhatsApp line 3052232795 and the products are delivered to the place of choice, with multiple payment alternatives,” according to Grupo Exito.

“This new service, which has a coverage of three kilometers around each shopping center, is already operating in Viva Envigado and Viva Palmas [both in the Envigado suburbs of Medellin] and soon it will be implemented in seven more shopping centers in the country including Viva Laureles in Medellín; Viva La Ceja in eastern Antioquia; San Pedro in Neiva, Viva Barranquilla, Viva Tunja, Viva Villavicencio and Viva Wajiira in Riohacha,” according to the company.

ANDI Connects 25,000 Grocery Stores to Online Supplies

On a related front, Colombia’s biggest national industrial/commercial trade association ANDI announced May 8 a new wholesale online order-and-delivery alliance with Grupo Meiko’s “SúperVecino” neighborhood grocery-supply network.

The SúperVecino network (see: https://supervecino.grupomeiko.co/) enables thousands of local neighborhood grocery stores to order online and then receive deliveries directly, thus avoiding making trips to crowded (and hence potentially infectious) grocery wholesale supply centers in Medellin and other large cities.

“This initiative aims to offer an alternative in such a way that shopkeepers avoid going to the supply centers, reducing the risks of contagion and being able to continue their businesses and guarantee the income of their families. At the same time, the model supports rural producers and supply centers with the purchase of their foods,” according to ANDI.

“Since the beginning of the restriction of economic activity, we have been working on various alternatives to give continuity to some productive and commercial activities, while avoiding health threats. In addition to this [grocery wholesale] model, we are working with other ANDI sectoral commercial chambers on the implementation of [online order-and-delivery] of other products,” added ANDI President Bruce MacMaster.

The new system “supports the entire supply chain from producers who find a new sales channel on the platforms, to shopkeepers who can order online, choose the supplier and sustain their businesses without putting themselves at risk,” ANDI added.


In yet another effort to shore-up Coronavirus-crisis business liquidity, President Ivan Duque and Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla unveiled May 6 two new programs for payroll subsidies as well as income-tax-payment deadline delays.

Under the latest “declaration of economic emergency,” all employees of micro, small, medium and large companies here that have suffered sales declines of at least 20% in April 2020 (versus April 2019) will each get a COP$350,000 (US$90) direct transfer from the government for the next three months.

That payment – estimated to benefit some 6 million Colombia workers -- is equivalent to 40% of the current Colombia minimum wage, President Duque explained.

In addition, the government will postpone the second regular payment of corporate income tax (normally at end-May) to end-2020, helping companies conserve cash to meet payroll and other expenses.

Finance Minister Carrasquilla added that the new worker/business subsidies -- totaling about COP$6 trillion/US$1.5 billion) -- come on top of other Coronavirus-crisis programs that have already enabled companies to restructure on more-favorable terms outstanding loans equivalent to nearly COP$150 trillion (US$38 billion), helping to save millions of jobs.

“Of course, we would like to finance the entirety of payroll [of Cornavirus-slammed companies], but we don’t have enough money for that,” Carrasquilla explained, citing fiscal limits.

Nevertheless, the new program will cover “a very significant percentage of payrolls for the next three months,” especially for micro, small and medium-sized businesses, he added.

To qualify for these grants, companies will have to document through an auditor or accountant their actual payrolls -- and prove payment to workers each month via the mandatory “PILA” employee-benefits platform here, he added.

As for the income-tax payment delays, “companies that do not have cash can hardly pay those taxes, and if they fall into default they generate [bigger] problems later, which we want to avoid,” Carrasquilla added.

Medellin Chamber of Commerce Proposals

Meanwhile, in a new presentation to a Medellin Chamber of Commerce for Antioquia (MCCA) economic-outlook forum, former Inter-American Development Bank chief economist Eduardo Lora explained that a huge challenge facing not just Medellin but also Colombia is to generate more formal, tax-paying and benefits-generating employment -- in the wake of Coranavirus crisis.

Colombia needs to generate at least 4 million more formal-sector jobs quickly, MCCA quoted Lora as saying. Such a development not only would improve living conditions for workers but also would shore-up Colombia’s tenuous fiscal situation by generating tax revenues.

However, the Coronavirus crisis instead is causing just the opposite, as millions of people lose income -- and temporarily lose jobs -- while about 10 million more people here are working fewer hours. “These are huge numbers like never before,” Lora said.

To get Colombia back on track, Lora proposed that the government temporarily subsidize formal employment via a mix of policies that would reduce unemployment and stimulate demand.

Beyond that, tax reform is needed to “define how the debts we have today are paid in the future,” he said. What’s more, cities need to think more profoundly about the total impact of promoting telecommuting and teleworking -- as is now mandated during the current crisis for office employees.

While Lora added that Colombia is unlikey to see a return to the growth rates of 2019 before 2023 or 2024, former Commerce Minister Jorge Humberto Botero added in a separate presentation here that the Colombian economy could contract by 5.5% this year -- worse than the 4.5% contraction in the 1999 economic crisis.

In another presentation, Universidad de los Andes professor Sergio Clavijo predicted that Colombia GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020 might be around 2%, but would fall into negative territory for full-year 2020.

Beyond coping with the current crisis, government also needs a longer-term refocus on converting some 9 million Colombians in the informal sector to the formal jobs sector, Clavijo added.

At the same forum, former Colombia Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo added that the Coronavirus crisis currently is estimated as costing Colombia at least COP$53 trillion (US$13.5 billion).

To recoup fiscal losses that accompany such economic crises, government can’t just raise taxes, since that would kill even more tax-paying business and hence kill more tax-paying jobs, he said.

Instead, “everything points to the fact that the government is going to have to [recoup losses] by borrowing more and raising the public debt,” hence postponing fiscal balance recovery into future years.


EPM general manager Álvaro Guillermo Rendón López confirmed in a televised May 7 address that the company continues to aim for a December 2021 startup of its US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt Hidroituango hydroelectric plant in Antioquia.

In his address, Rendón revealed that the Hidroituango project is now 77.8% complete, with COP$11 trillion (US$2.8 billion) already invested so far.

The first power turbines at Hidroituango would begin to generate electricity in December 2021 -- provided that Colombia’s environmental licensing agency (Agencia Nacional de Licencias Ambientales, ANLA) gives timely approval, Rendón said.

Following that, EPM would start-up additional turbines every three or four months in 2022 and beyond, until the full 2.4-gigawatts output capacity is reached – again, assuming timely ANLA approvals.

Meanwhile, EPM’s recent acquisition of the “CaribeMar” power network in the Atlantic coast region will be ready for complete takeover and operational startup in September 2020, he said.

“In the period 2020 to 2023, we seek to modernize the organization and improve relations with our customers and users through continuous improvement in service, information technologies and the development of ‘smart’ cities,” Rendón said in his address covering highlights of EPM’s first 100 days of operations so far this year.

The acquisition of CaribeMar – adding 1.5 million more power customers in Bolívar, Cesar, Córdoba and Sucre departments -- will increase EPM’s national distribution/commercialization market share to 35%, he noted. That makes EPM the biggest electric power player in all Colombia.

So far in 2020, EPM has completed 96% of its scheduled infrastructure projects (totaling COP$465 billion/US$118 million) to date, including entry-into-operation of new electrical infrastructure projects in Urabá and Medellín, plus upgrades at power plants, he said.

Meanwhile, over the next four years, EPM plans to invest another COP$7 trillion (US$1.8 billion) in infrastructure -- and simultaneously find innovative ways to overcome potential effects of the Coronavirus crisis, he said.

Currently, EPM serves nearly 20 million people with power, water, sewage treatment, natural gas and waste management utilities through 44 subsidiary companies in six Latin American countries: Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and Chile, Rendón noted.

“In 2019 we invested COP$3.2 trillion [US$816 million] in infrastructure and operating assets and distributed COP$10.4 trillion [US$2.65 billion] in value to stakeholders, which translates into more social investment, job creation and quality of life for more people,” Rendón said.

“The financial results obtained in 2019 allow transfers to the municipality of Medellín of COP$1.5 trillion [US$383 million] during 2020 -- a year where the city faces effects caused by the Coronavirus pandemic,” he added.

In 2019, the EPM Group reported progress in  universalization of public utility services in its Colombia markets, reaching 96.43% of its market-area homes with electric power; 85.84% with natural gas; 95.75% with potable water supply; 93.5% for wastewater removal; and 99.28% for solid waste disposal, he said.

Meanwhile, EPM continues to lead all Colombia -- and even much of the developing world -- with innovative programs to bring affordable public services to poorer people, Rendón noted.

“With innovative social solutions, the business group enabled access to energy and water under the ‘prepaid’ modality, for those who due to their income conditions find it difficult to access these services,” according to the first-100-days 2020 report.

“In 2019, 26,747 families began to enjoy prepaid energy in the EPM, CENS and ESSA companies, with a total of 317,618 clients and users since 2007. Last year, in the ‘Agua Prepago’ program, we added 2,834 new clients and users in Valle de Aburrá [metro Medellin], for a consolidated total of 25,211 clients and users since 2015.

“With ‘pay as you can’ [installments] program, in 2019 we had 40,297 new clients and users in EPM, CENS and ESSA divisions. Since 2014, when the program was launched, the beneficiaries have amounted to 209,437,” the company added.


Medellin-based electric power giant Celsia announced May 4 that first quarter (1Q) 2020 net income rose 38% year-on-year, to COP$86.7 billion (US$21.8 million).

Consolidated revenues for the quarter rose 1% versus fourth-quarter 2020, to COP$928 billion (US$234 million). Colombia revenues represented 84% of the total, with Central America operations accounting for the remaining 16%.

Consolidated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) dipped a slight 0.2% year-on-year, to COP$330 billion (US$83 million). Colombia contributed COP$290 billion (US$73 million) while Central America contributed COP$40 billion (US$10 million).

Consolidated debt at the end of the latest quarter came to COP$4.3 trillion (US$1.08 billion) with a leverage indicator of 3.2 times net debt to EBITDA, according to Celsia.

“This quarter the organization disbursed credits of COP$200 billion (US$50 million), of which COP$160 billion (US$40 million) was disbursement to maintain financial flexibility during Covid-19 crisis and COP$40 billion (US$10 million) to continue with the development of the 20-megawatt San Andrés de Cuerquia, Antioquia [hydroelectric plant] and the Comayagua solar farm in Honduras,” according to the company.

Covid-19 Response for 2020

As for the remainder of this year, “Celsia redirects priorities for 2020 and concentrates its efforts on supporting our clients in Valle and Tolima [departments], supporting SME [small and medium-size enterprise] suppliers and protecting direct and contractor employment” during the Covid-19 crisis, according to the company.

“As part of the initiative, this month around COP$44 billion [US$11 million] was paid in advance to more than 350 suppliers in Colombia, including individuals, small and medium-sized companies and critical suppliers.

“With these resources we hope that our suppliers have sufficient liquidity to maintain their operations and to defend the jobs that they themselves generate.

“Likewise, for the next three months, these same suppliers will receive their invoice [payments] on faster terms than those initially agreed in the contracts.”

Meanwhile, Celsia “reconnected all clients who had service problems for various circumstances [and] suspended disconnections while the required [Coronavirus quarantine] isolation lasts.

“We had an operational plan to attend to the essential circuits that serve hospitals, health centers, prisons, nursing homes, aqueducts, among others.

“Likewise, our commercial offices were temporarily closed and we strengthened the digital channels for customer service and support, designing payment facility schemes and implementing payment deferral plans that have been established jointly and with the support and leadership of the national government.

“Faced with the provisions established by the national government related to energy billing in the regulated market of users from strata 1 to 4 [low-to-medium income customers], we have carried out the following actions:

“1. Due to the voluntary implementation by the company of the mechanism called tariff option, in that market the energy tariff in Tolima has increased 1.2% between January and April. The energy rate is frozen for the next four months.

“2. In Valle del Cauca, the rate for our users has increased 6.1% so far this year, due to energy costs in the wholesale market. However, since March there have been no new increases in the rate.

“3. The company is applying payment reliefs for invoices to regulated customers in strata 1 to 4 established by the national government. These reliefs are in addition to the subsidies received by strata 1, 2 and 3 of 60%, 50% and 15%, respectively.

“For strata 1 and 2, the unsubsidized value of the energy service from the bills for April and May, up to subsistence consumption, will be deferred for up to 36 months at a rate of 0%. If the client makes payment of the total invoice for April and May in a timely manner, then the client receive a 10% discount. These resources will be disbursed to the company by Findeter and have a guarantee of payment from the nation.

“The additional value against subsistence consumption for these two strata may also be deferred at the same term, but with a preferential interest rate.

“For strata 3 and 4, the cost of the energy service may be financed in 24 months at an interest rate equivalent to inflation. These resources will also be disbursed by Findeter in a rate structure compensated with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance.

“For clients of strata 5, 6, businesses and industries, the company has established options to define payment agreements that provide support during quarantine,” Celsia added.

 


The Coronavirus crisis continues to slam companies as Medellin-based cement/concrete multinational Cementos Argos reported May 6 that its first quarter (1Q) 2020 net income dropped 73% year-on-year, to COP$18 billion (US$4.6million).

Corporate-wide cement sales dropped 6% year-on-year, while ready-mixed concrete sales declined 16% as a result of the crisis.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) also dipped 5.3%, to COP$343 billion (US$86 million), according to the company.

In Colombia, cement sales fell 14% year-on-year, while ready-mix concrete declined 19.5% and aggregates sales slumped by 60%. As a result, Colombia gross revenues for 1Q 2020 fell 6.1% year-on-year, according to the company.

Reacting to the downturn, Cementos Argos announced a “Project Reset” plan aiming to save "between US$75 million and US$90 million in 2020” in order to “address the impact of Covid-19 on the Argos operation.”

“Additional savings arise from a reduction in capex of US$40 million for the current year,” the company added.

“With the company's strong cash position, the savings initiatives within ‘Reset,’ the support of our stakeholders and the passionate commitment of our more than 7,000 employees, we firmly believe that Argos is fully prepared to face the current conditions of the market,” said Juan Esteban Calle, CEO of Cementos Argos.

Cement and concrete sales-volume declines “were affected by the value recovery strategy successfully implemented in Colombia” as well as “adverse weather conditions in the U.S. region” along with “quarantines and market damages due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Colombia, in the Caribbean and Central America,” according to the company.

Colombia Results, Outlook

In Colombia, “Argos estimates that the impact of Covid-19 on its EBITDA derived from the [Covid-19] containment measures was around COP$35 billion [US$8.8 million]. In order to face this difficult situation, and to prepare the company for gradual recovery that the markets will experience in the coming months, Argos has launched ‘Reset,’” according to the company.

“Cement and concrete shipments decreased 13.9% and 19.5% respectively, in yearly terms. These results were affected by the value recovery strategy carried out successfully during the first quarter of the year, as well as by the decreed quarantine by the Colombian government as of March 25, reducing our working days by 8% during the quarter.

“During the quarter, clinker and cement imports decreased by 35.3% and 56.1% respectively compared to 1Q 2019, which, together with the growth of the market during January and February allowed us to continue improving prices in the segment of cement, ending with an increase of around 13.5% compared to 1Q 2019.

“The [quarantine] closure measure for infrastructure sector was lifted on April 13, and for the residential and commercial sectors on April 27, which allowed us to begin the restart of our operations.

“As of the date of this report, the [Colombia highway infrastructure] business shows a positive trend with a recovery in volumes of around 50%. The industrial business, as expected, will experience a slower recovery given the strict protocols that must be followed to reopen construction sites.

“In general, shipments made during April have doubled our initial market expectations, significantly improving our scenarios in the region.

“Additionally, the devaluation of the Colombian peso generated an increase in the [import] parity price, adding more space for our strategy of value recovery amid gradual market recovery.

“Regarding the outlook for this year, we recognize the early steps taken by the government to successfully contain the contagion curve and, in that sense, we expect a prompt revival of the economy, recognizing the challenge that this represents in a scenario of low oil prices and currency devaluation.”

USA Outlook

Beyond Colombia, “we remain positive about the medium-term outlook in the USA region, but we recognize the possibility that there may be short-term market effects due to the impact on the economy due to the Covid-19 outbreak,” according to Cementos Argos.

“We have experienced a slowdown in the residential segment and we expect this trend to continue given the deterioration in monthly statistics on housing starts, housing permits and unemployment. In the commercial segment, similar damages could arise as evidenced in the deterioration of the ‘Architectural Billing Index.’

“In infrastructure, we foresee short-term impacts derived from the liquidity shortage both at the [U.S.] state level as in the whole country, but we expect a rebound in the medium term supported by government initiatives to promote this sector. Public spending in March presented a 7.9% increase, in line with our expectations.”

Central America/Caribbean Outlook

Revenues and EBITDA in 1Q 2020 for the Caribbean and Central America decreased by 16.9% and 33.5%, respectively, according to Argos.

“General results in the Caribbean and Central America region continued to decrease partly due to the market slowdown caused by the Coronavirus, but mainly due to the prices in Honduras that continue to be lower than the 2019 average price and the challenging environment of the construction sector in Panama,” according to the company.

“In that sense, cement volumes and ready-mix concrete volumes decreased 4.1% and 34.1% compared to the same period in 2019.

“The Panamanian government has demonstrated its willingness to boost the local economy and protect national production by imposing a 30% tariff on cement imports into the country. We hope that this measure will be evaluated and implemented by other countries in the region, given the current market conditions and its impact on local economies.

“In Honduras, we inaugurated solid-fuel storage in the north of the country and supplied 11.6% of the energy consumed by the Piedras Azules plant in 1Q 2020 with a solar-power farm operated by Celsia, with the aim of reducing our costs. With this solar farm, we also reduced CO2 emissions from our energy supply by around 1,500 tonnes during 1Q 2020, in line with our commitment to sustainability,” the company added.


Some 15 million Colombians could be freed from Coronavirus quarantine this month as a result of new flexibility measures for certain economic sectors as well as for some 800 municipalities that (to date) haven’t had a single case of Covid-19.

This "Covid-free-area" exemption potentially would include large areas of rural Antioquia -- but not in Medellin, nor its heavily populated metro-area municipalities.

So explained Colombia President Ivan Duque, Colombia Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz and “MinCIT” Commerce Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo in a 6 pm May 5 nationwide televised address.

Among the industrial sectors that can start to escape quarantine starting May 11: Automobile and auto-parts manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, clothing manufacture, machinery manufacturing, electronics manufacturing and repair, construction-materials manufacturing, marine equipment repair, vehicle diagnostics centers, industrial laundries (with home-delivery-only option), bookstores, office-supply stores and hardware stores -- and, in some 800 municipalities free of Covid-19, almost any other type of commerce (except for bars, billiard halls, discoteques, sit-down restaurants or mass events such as concerts).

However, the mayors of such Covid-free cities first must petition the Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry to allow such businesses to reopen, once these business prove that they are complying with the new biosafety protocols. Only following Health Ministry review would such businesses be allowed to reopen.

What’s more, over this coming week, the Health Ministry will be unveiling new biosafety protocols for many more industries and commercial operations throughout Colombia.

With these new protocols, mayors in many more cities -- starting May 11 -- can begin the process of reopening many more sectors, beyond the existing exemptions for manufacturing, construction, agriculture, food manufacture, freight transport, public services, supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals, utilities, public transport and safety.

These local mayors in Colombia will be empowered to open-up more businesses only if the businesses first meet new-and-upcoming biosafety protocols. In addition, such reopenings must not cause public transport to exceed the current 35% capacity limit designed to thwart Coronavirus infections.

Medellin, for example, is well-below the 35% limit today, at just 22% of capacity, Health Minister Ruiz revealed. Bogota likewise is only at 21% currently.

Beyond new industrial/commercial reopenings, personal reopenings are also starting May 11: Children between six and 17 years old will now be allowed to go outdoors for 30 minutes, three times per week, when accompanied by a healthy, low-risk (60 years age maximum), responsible adult, Ruiz added.

“Between May 11 and May 25, we are going to extend the mandatory preventive quarantine, but recovering productive and living spaces – and doing so with the responsibility of continuing to protect life and continue to protect health,” President Duque said.

“We are going to give other sectors the opportunity also to boost our economy and there we are going to have industrial sectors,” he added.

“Pico y cedula” restrictions in cities such as Medellin and Bogota thus will continue beyond May 11, but now will give people the option to go to bookstores, office-supply stores, hardware stores and pet stores, in addition to existing permissions for grocery, banking and pharmacy trips, he added.

Current bans on international and national flights will continue at least through May 30, as well as mandatory quarantines for school-age students, people with severe existing health problems, and people 70 years and older.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, here is the complete list of economic subsectors that will start to open following May 11:

1. Manufacture of furniture, mattresses and bed frames;
2. Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers;
3. Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products;

4. Manufacture of machinery and equipment;
5. Maintenance and repair of motor vehicles;
6. Maintenance and repair of technology and computer equipment;

7. Wholesale and retail trade of vehicles (including parts, pieces and accessories);
8. Wholesale trade of furniture and household goods;
9. Wholesale trade of machinery and equipment;

10. Retail trade of pet products;
11. Retail trade of construction materials, hardware, locksmiths and glass and paint products in specialized stores;
12. Retail trade of fuels, lubricants, additives and cleaning products for motor vehicles in specialized establishments;

13. Retail trade of books, newspapers, stationery, supplies and desks in specialized stores;
14. Laundry services for home delivery only;
15. Establishments providing vehicle maintenance services, appliances, boats, agricultural or fishing machinery,  as well as establishments supplying and/or installing vehicle spare parts;
16. Automotive diagnostic centers.


Colombia’s Transport Ministry announced May 5 that -- following consultations with local Mayors -- vehicle repair shops and auto-parts stores will be the next economic sectors to be freed from Coronavirus quarantines.

“Based on the requests and evaluations of the municipal Mayors, the [Transport Ministry’s] Logistics and Transportation Center will approve the establishments that will be able to operate,” according to the Ministry.

“All establishments must comply with biosafety protocols in the framework of the fight against the pandemic derived from Covid-19. Employees must carry out their activities with the respective [biosafety rules] and good biosecurity practices.”

Any exemption from quarantine “must be done in compliance with the special biosecurity protocols established by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection," according to the Ministry.

“Each Mayor’s office would receive a petition from each of the establishments, which must demonstrate their ability to comply with biosafety protocols and show proof of being legally constituted, that is, they must have a Commercial Registry before the respective Chamber of Commerce.

“The mayoralties will analyze the operating conditions of these establishments according to the particular needs and the control capacity of the sanitary emergency of each municipality, and will send the request to the [Transport Ministry’s] Logistics and Transportation Center for approval of operation of the establishments.”

The transport modes to be used by employees to-and-from these shops “should be taken into account, among other aspects, to minimize the concentrations of people and the peculiarities of each territory,” according to the Ministry.

Municipalities “will be in charge of regulating the activities of said establishments, as well as verifying that they comply with the sanitary standards required once they are serving the public.

“Once the respective Mayor’s office reviews the sufficiency, quality and veracity of the information sent in the petition by the establishments, that office will proceed to apply [for approval] to the Logistics and Transport Center . . .

“Subsequently, the Logistics and Transportation Center will review the registration of information and documentation by the territorial authorities, and will approve or reject the operation of the proposed establishments.

“The gradual reopening of vehicle maintenance workshops will reinforce the optimal operation of cargo and passenger transport vehicles -- included in the exceptions to the mandatory preventive isolation measure -- since they are the ones who ensure food supply and mobilization. of authorized persons throughout the country, as well as supplies and articles for health during the days of the emergency,” the Ministry added.

Medellin Mayor Cites Construction Sector Opportunities

On a related front, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero in a May 4 “virtual” meeting with business trade group Camacol Antioquia revealed new opportunities arising -- thanks in part to “positive” experiences so-far with the reopening of construction and manufacturing sectors here.

Novel control-and-identification technologies and the use of “Big Data” are helping Medellin to reopen many companies and jump-start employment, via the pioneering “Medellin Me Cuida” computerized registration platform that helps to minimize risks of Coronavirus infections, he explained.

“With the reopening and everything we are safer than we were a week ago, because today we have companies that presented biosafety protocols, something that we did not have before. Even those companies previously exempt [from quarantines] presented a security protocol. Only 9,000 companies have not [yet] done so,” Quintero revealed.

“It is not because of our slowness [to help ensure a relatively safe economic reopening] that a job is lost in Antioquia. Destroying a job is very easy, creating it is very difficult. We do not want to close again -- and for this we know that it is so important that citizens respect the rules and that businessmen respect the rules, as is the case of Antioquia, and that we civil servants creating dynamic and intelligent strategies that allow us to sustain this opening,” he added.

During the "virtual" meeting, Camacol Antioquia's board “recognized the city's progress in reviving the construction sector compared to other regions,” according to the Mayor’s office.

What's more, Mayor Quintero also highlighted huge new opportunities arising from key projects over the next four years in the “Medellín Futuro 2020-2023 Development Plan,” which foresees a COP$22 trillion (US$5.59 billion) budget.

“There is undoubtedly a [firm commitment] there to advance construction and drive construction,” Quintero explained.

“As a result of the conversations with Camacol, we approved or reflected in the development plan that some city areas that today do not have construction [underway], but that have public services, can be built making a modification even to what the POT [zoning plan] had been proposing -- as long as that happens in the next two years,” he said.


Colombia’s Treasury Ministry revealed May 4 that its own “Fiscal Rule Advisory Committee” of economic analysts now fears that the Colombian economy could shrink by 5.5% this year because of the Coronavirus crisis.

The “CCRF” Committee (“Comité Consultivo de la Regla Fiscal”) just undertook a new sensitivity analysis of the behavior of fiscal variables under different scenarios of economic growth, according to the Ministry announcement.

Rationale: “Unusual uncertainty that prevails in the world macroeconomic outlook,” according to the official CCRF report (see: http://www.urf.gov.co/webcenter/ShowProperty?nodeId=%2FConexionContent%2FWCC_CLUSTER-129797%2F%2FidcPrimaryFile&revision=latestreleased).

“According to the most likely economic growth scenario estimated by the government, productive activity would contract 5.5% in 2020. This figure is consistent with a fiscal deficit target of 6.1% of GDP, given the Committee's decision to support the activation of the countercyclical spending clause . . .

“The deterioration of the fiscal balance [in 2020] compared to 2019 is due both to the extraordinary spending needs derived from the health crisis and economic emergency, and to the significant reduction projected in the tax collection.

“The difficult liquidity situation facing the business sector today is expected to deepen the negative effect that low economic growth usually generates on government revenues.

“Likewise, the Committee emphasizes the importance of the government presenting a path of fiscal adjustment for the coming years, which guarantees the sustainability of public finances.

“The strategy must integrate elements of rationalization and targeting of subsidies, the dismantling of countercyclical spending and measures aimed at increasing government revenues,” the report concludes.


The Medellin Mayor’s Office revealed May 4 that to date, 64,366 companies have registered under the pioneering “Medellin Me Cuida” economic restart program for manufacturing and construction sectors here.

According to the Mayor, of those 64,366 companies, 54,810 have presented evidence of compliance with new biosafety protocols to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. So far, 33,702 companies have been certified in compliance, while another 8,915 are pending approval.

As a result of the “Medellin Me Cuida” registration and biosafety compliance programs, 785,260 employees are now authorized to venture out to and from work in the Medellin metro area (Valle de Aburra), including 528,695 inside Medellin itself, according to the Mayor.

“The Municipal administration will follow up on the biosafety protocols that were approved for the companies,” the Mayor added.

Authorization notices were sent by email to authorized companies, including text messages to those accredited to work.

“In Medellín we are pioneers [in company/worker registrations] because we not only require biosafety protocol from construction or manufacturing companies, but also from those that were already exempt in previous [Coronavirus quarantine-exemption] decrees,” added Medellin’s general secretary Esteban Restrepo Taborda.

“The municipalities of the metropolitan area were in charge of approving the companies domiciled in each locality, then linking the required information on the [Medellin Me Cuida] platforms and thus allowing the movement of workers anywhere in the region,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

To qualify for quarantine exemption, employers must enforce biosafety protocols such as the mandatory use of a face mask, minimum distancing of employees and the provision of elements for worker care such as glycerinated alcohol plus policies for self-care and isolation (such as telecommuting for office workers).

“The Mayor’s Office of Medellín, together with the authorities, will continue to adopt control and surveillance mechanisms to comply with protocols to preserve the life of citizens and also reactivate the economy for the well-being of all,” the Mayor added.


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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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