Working abroad

20 March 2008

As the international association for companies involved with cranes, rigging and specialized transport, SC&RA continually monitors economic development – especially involving construction opportunities – throughout the world. In recent years we have witnessed a significant growth in construction activity in such countries as Brazil, China, India and Japan.

Exciting new opportunities are emerging in nations that less readily come to mind. In many cases, these opportunities result largely from governments taking action. In a special report, Doing Business in 2007 – How to Reform, the World Bank documented 213 reforms to stimulate business in 112 economies between January 2005 and April 2006. Reformers simplified business regulations, strengthened property rights, eased tax burdens, increased access to credit, and reduced the cost of exporting and importing.

Georgia, the top reformer, slashed the minimum capital required to start a new business from US$850 to US$85, reduced the time to meet all the administrative requirements for export from 54 days to 13 days, and boosted business registrations by 55%. Among other positive steps, Georgia also amended its procedural code for the courts, introducing specialized commercial sections of the courts and reforming the appeals process.

Romania, the runner-up, simplified the procedures for obtaining building permits and set up a single office to replace five agencies for processing applications. As a result, the time required for obtaining construction documents fell by 49 days. To encourage businesses to hire first-time workers, Romania adopted a new labour regulation allowing term contracts to extend up to six years.

The country also eased trading across borders. After-clearance audits now enable customs to quickly release cargo to importers, with the container contents verified after reaching the warehouse. The time traders need to satisfy all requirements was reduced from 28 days to 14 days.

The world has taken notice, pouring investment capital into Romania. The nation was one of five whose stock exchanges were featured in the cover story of the 28 May issue of BusinessWeek. The Bucharest Exchange Trading Index has soared nearly 1,000% since 2002. k This exchange began in 1882 and stayed in business until 1945, when the Communists shuttered it. The re-emergence that began 50 years later shows no signs of weakening.

The main focus of the BusinessWeek article, however, was Colombia's “improbable journey k from crime capital to investment hot spot.” In such a nation, price-earning ratios matter less than fuzzy measures such as confianza, “which translates into confidence and trust but is more accurately described as the general sense that people can transact business and get through everyday life unharmed.”

Confianza has been the overriding goal of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe since he took office in 2002. One South American economist noted that a graph of the decline in kidnapping in the nation to investment gains would show a one-to-one correlation.

Colombia's US$130 billion economy is expanding at 6.8%, more than two points faster than the Latin American average. During the last 10 years, its inflation rate has dropped from 18 to 5%.

Countries such as Colombia illustrate why it is so very difficult to forecast exact rates of development and opportunities for our industry. Would Colombia continue to thrive without Uribe?

One particularly encouraging development is that many young, educated Colombians who would have settled abroad a mere decade ago now choose to make their mark at home in business and politics.

With luck, one of them eventually will step forward, take Uribe's place and move the nation to still higher economic achievement.

There has never been a better time for companies to research opportunities in other nations. Start with free information from the World Bank such as economic rankings of 175 nations, based on the ease of doing business with each, at www.doingbusiness.org/economyrankings Of course, for international information relating specifically to our industry, you really cannot beat the magazine you are now reading. Month after month, it covers the most significant news and trends from around the world.

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