Dispatch from Colombia – 2015

Dear Friends,

Standing on Monserrate recently, the mountain that overlooks Bogotá in the valley below, this city of nearly seven million inhabitants looks immense. And while the traffic snarls during rush hour, the gleaming buildings in the Financial District and the fancy bars and restaurants of Parque de la 93 give the city a palpable sense of opportunity. Colombia, with its troubled past in the 1980s and 1990s, has become a vibrant market, and one of the largest economies of Latin America.

Colombia is arguably Latin-America’s third largest economy and is the second oldest democracy in the western hemisphere. It is expected to grow at a rate of 3.8%, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the Latin American region. It has also had extremely stable economic growth: since 1960 it has only experienced one year of recession (in 1999).

Despite intermittent conflicts with the FARC rebels over the years, the Colombian government has had strong, stable democratic institutions, with fair elections and regular transfers of power between parties. This is reflected in Colombia’s growing economy, stable inflation rates and its high ease of doing business rankings.

Much of the economic activity of this large country is concentrated in the major metropolitan areas.The five largest Colombian departments represent 65% of the country’s economic activity. Bogota D.C. alone represents 25% of the national economy.

The healthcare industry in particular is well-positioned for growth. Total health spending has increased rapidly in the last ten years, at an annual compound growth rate of 15%. However, currently total healthcare spending is still around $500 per capita, ranking it seventh in Latin America. This indicates much untapped potential for growth.

Although Colombia has achieved widespread access to healthcare coverage since the establishment of the Mandatory Health Plan (Plan Obligatorio de Salud) in 1993, the quality of public healthcare in Colombia is poor. According to World Bank data, Colombia saw a 10% decrease in public health-related expenditure from 2003-2009, though this level has stayed roughly stable since.

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