Paraguay's public works and communications ministry (MOPC) is recommending senate approval of a controversial bill that would extend a tollroad concession period in exchange for improvement and expansion works.

The tollroad covers around 140km of highway 7 between the district of Caaguazú (Caaguazú department) and the city of Minga Guazú (Alto Paraná), where highway operator Tapé Pora holds the concession until 2023.

The legislation states that Tapé Pora would launch the improvement works in the short term, while the concession period would be extended by 30 years beginning in 2023. Tapé Pora has committed to invest around US$130mn to widen around 113km of the highway, local media reported.

Tapé Pora is controlled by Conempa, a consortium of Paraguayan construction companies. Seeking to sidestep a potential conflict of interest, the MOPC removed itself from the proceedings as the CEO of Conempa is Ramón Jiménez Gaona Sr., the father of current MOPC minister Ramón Jiménez Gaona Jr.

The MOPC ceded administration of the project to Paraguay's general attorney's office, led by Roberto Moreno; a controversial move as Moreno had previously formed part of Tapé Mora's legal team, local media reported.

Last week Paraguay's senate approved the bill to extend Tapé Pora's concession period, although the measure was due to be discussed again in an extraordinary session on Tuesday after a miscount was declared in the first vote.

According to local senator Eduardo Petta, 20 votes were lodged against the bill for the extension, while only 18 were actually counted, local news outlet Paraguay reported.

Investments to widen highway 7 would be footed by Tapé Pora and no new toll booths would be added and toll fees would not be increased, said Gaona Jr. in an MOPC release.

Expansion of the highway should not have to wait seven years for the current concession to expire, the minister added.

In a separate project, the MOPC is seeking to employ a public-private partnership for expansions and improvements to a further 142km stretch of the same highway, covering sections of highway 2 and highway 7.

Around 70% of Paraguay's economic activity involves transportation on highways 2 and 7, which run between capital Asunción and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay's largest and second largest cities, respectively.


Source: BNamericas