26 August 2020

Since its launch in March 2017, the Mexico Projects Hub (Proyectos México) has aimed to accelerate private investment in Mexican infrastructure development. The first of its kind in the world, it has quickly strengthened Mexico’s ability to fund multiple large projects across the nation. As a result, the Global Infrastructure Hub’s (GI Hub) InfraCompass 2020 analysis of 81 countries ranks Mexico number one in the world for procurement.

The Mexico Projects Hub was born as a solution to the government’s challenges getting infrastructure projects fully funded. To realise all the development necessary to keep pace with modernisation, it needed to attract private investment, both domestic and foreign-sourced. But how best to do that?

The first step involved creating the mechanisms for public-private partnerships (PPPs). Initial attempts started in 2004, but not until  2012 were specific laws enacted to provide the legal framework. Post-enactment there have been more than 100 public biddings for the implementation of projects through the PPP model focused on the following sectors: health, energy, transportation, telecommunications, environmental, social and hydraulic infrastructure.

In 2020 infrastructure activity is everywhere. For example, the State of Nuevo Leon intends to bid and award the first waste-to-energy project in Mexico. The estimated investment will be US$500 million and it will be developed in the city of Monterrey, partly financed by the federal government through the state-owned development bank Banobras. Also, in the states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas is a PPP scheme for four federal roads and two international bridges, a project known as the ‘Northeast Package’.

Success of its PPP initiatives in easing the burden on the federal budget spurred the government to seek more. And to look further afield for private capital. Thus the idea for creating the Mexico Projects Hub, initially developed within the state-owned foreign trade bank Bancomext, before permanently moving in July 2017 to the more appropriate Banobras, which is focused on infrastructure development. The GI Hub assisted, and remains a core partner.

According to GI Hub’s Senior Policy Specialist, Cleyton Barros: "The Mexico Projects Hub is still the benchmark. It superbly serves the government's infrastructure project pipeline's key functions - promoting the early engagement of the private sector and allowing governments to track and consistently achieve progress on infrastructure development priorities."

Mauricio Vazquez Vela, Director of the Mexico Projects Hub, who was involved from the beginning, says, “Our mission is to be the go-to source for institutional investors interested in infrastructure development in Mexico, where all relevant information is updated and concentrated in one place.” The word ‘updated’ is key. Building the interface is easy; ensuring the data is consistently and meaningfully updated is tough.

And that’s the genius of the Mexico Projects Hub. It doesn’t have to update data because it directly links with over forty-five organisations critical to the infrastructure development process whose job it is to keep their own data current. This means Mauricio can manage the entire operation with four capable staff and two in-house programmers.

The one potential drawback is that while the Mexico Projects Hub is fully bilingual Spanish and English, most of the 45 data sources are Spanish language only. But Mauricio isn’t concerned. “We don’t see that as a problem, because no serious outside investor would consider doing business in Mexico without some Spanish-language proficiency.”

And the site has proven its worth. Time and again. For example, during one of Mauricio’s early global promotional tours, a French consortium discovered the site and promptly jumped into the already-started bidding process for a highways package. They ended up winning the project.

Today the platform averages 60,000 visits a month, with 3000 loyal users who return at least three times a month. These are impressive figures, given the target audience is institutional investors, of which there are a limited number globally.

Three years after launch the Mexico Projects Hub stands alone as the model online infrastructure project pipeline. It is time for other governments to follow its lead.

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