I had to travel unexpectedly to my home country Colombia because my father had to undergo an unexpected surgery (a Carotid Endarterectomy). It has been more than five years since the last time I was here and it is always a bit shocking coming back. Colombia is an incredibly beautiful country that has been torn by violence since it declared independence in 1810 (contrary to common belief that violence is a recent problem, Colombians have been killing each other for almost two hundred years non-stop).
Colombia has seen an economic boom the last couple of years, creating with it an expected real-estate. Incredibly big and beautiful office buildings have sprung in many places, new malls have opened and highly guarded residential buildings are being built everywhere. To me it seems a very big bubble waiting to explode, for two reasons:
- The minimum salary in Colombia is about $300. Average salary is pretty close to minimum salary. Most of the country still lives in poverty, proud poverty, but still poverty. And yet a simple 2 bedroom apartment (90 sq. meters) in a “good” neighborhood in Bogotá can cost $150K dollars!. In the best parts of the city such apartment can go up to $350K! The price An apartment in a normal neighborhood has doubled in the last 5 years (this is anecdotal evidence, and I’m not taking the time to back this up with real numbers).
- Secondly, the Colombian government is a very, very unstable government. You can have 10 good years and suddenly a new corrupt president rises which steals all the money from the country, sells its body and soul to drugs/guerrilla and all your investments just go Kaput. Colombia’s had very good years recently, and I expect that this will end. The recent city major elections in Bogotá where a left-wing candidate won are not good omens for Colombia
But still, the company has a very good industrial backbone, exports agriculture (bananas, coffee) and services. Since my dad was at a hospital, I had the chance to have a look at the health system, and although it is a private hospital, I was impressed by the level of service, cleanness and equipment. The doctors are considered very good by worldwide standards. It is impressive how at the same time the country is very advanced, with high-level education, health, telecommunications, while at the same time all the streets have potholes, the government steals, it is unsafe to walk the streets at night EVERYWHERE and grabbing a taxi in the street can cost you your life.
My sister (Aida Bibliowicz Feldman) took some photos of the buses in one of the last avenues where there are still buses (about ten years ago a mass transport system based on buses with special lanes, called the “transmilenio”, was created, and it is expanding all the time. On the lines where a transmilenio travels, no bus can travel). I seems Bogotá is a very international city… first a bus to Egypt
then one to Jerusalem
you can also catch one to Rome
and finally, San Francisco
What a country…