BOGOTA (Reuters) – The Colombian construction industry stands ready to contribute to an economic recovery this year, supported by subsidy programs and new road infrastructure. However, it must move from selling projects to building projects, the largest building association said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Amarilo construction company employees wearing face masks are seen at a construction site during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bogota, Colombia, on May 19, 2020. REUTERS / Luisa Gonzalez

Last year, the industry was hardest hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It shrank by 27.7%, four times more than the Colombian economy as a whole.

While house-buying intentions intensified in the second half of last year – driven in part by a government grant for low- to middle-income households – construction activity has not yet picked up.

“We have to move from selling to building, because this is where we will achieve our higher goal of reactivating the economy,” said Sandra Forero, President of the Colombian Chamber of Construction (Camacol), at a virtual conference.

Forero says the construction of residential and other buildings, but not infrastructure projects, is expected to grow 8.4% this year, compared to a 27.2% decrease in 2020.

Including infrastructure projects, construction could grow by 6.6% to 10%, according to analysts who attended the conference.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel … We believe that sectors like construction, which achieved great success in 2020, will lead the recovery,” said Jose Ignacio Lopez, director of economic research at Corficolombiana.

“In general, we are optimistic about the potential for the building sector … while in infrastructure related to roads we see various government projects … which will soon receive important investments.”

The government is currently working on plans for a fifth round of infrastructure concessions, which include road, rail, river and airport projects and which could generate initial investments of pesos 18.5 billion ($ 5.17 billion).

Latin America’s fourth largest economy is set to grow 5% this year, according to government forecasts, up from a decline of 6.8% in 2020.

($ 1 = 3,578.29 Colombian Pesos)

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing from Oliver Griffin; Adaptation by John Stonestreet