Colombia: Private help for a public problem

Author: Alejandro Espinosa
Publication: Celebrating Reforms 2009
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In 1995, Colombia became the first country in all of Latin America to privatize its building-permit review process. Its new system of private professionals called Urban Curators (Curadores Urbanos) moved the administration of building permits out of the state-run Planning Office into the private domain. Urban Curators were made responsible for the complete and timely review of building permit applications. By 1996, the system of private Urban Curators was up and running. Fourteen years after its initial implementation, the system’s impact on the construction process is palpable. This case study looks at the reform and its impact.

Main Findings

  • Customers in Bogota can now bring their business to any one of the 5 offices providing Urban Curators and the competition has helped generate innovative, high-quality services.
  • In 1996, 11.3 million square meters for construction were approved. In 2007, Urban Curators helped this number climb to 19.2 million square meters—70% more area.
  • Time savings have been dramatic. In 1995, obtaining a building permit took an average 1,080 days—or, approximately 3 years. By 2008, this wait dropped to just 63 days—less than 1/17th of the old wait. The average time savings: about 2 years and 9 and ½ months.