By Marco Aquino
LIMA May 24 Peruvian President Ollanta Humala
said on Friday he will prioritize investments and speed up
infrastructure projects after the economy hit a "bump in the
road" with unexpectedly slow growth in the first quarter.
Peru's economy slowed to expand 4.8 percent in the first
three months of this year compared to the same period in 2012 as
the Andean nation's traditional mining exports slipped on
weakening mineral prices.
"We have decided to declare investments in the country to be
of national interest," Humala told reporters.
He said the government has "the conviction to overcome"
tough external economic factors.
Humala said he is introducing a package of reforms designed
to boost investments, including a measure to facilitate access
to capital markets and a new land use law that will move
infrastructure projects forward faster.
"The best way to create (business) confidence is by doing
what we're doing - taking concrete steps," Humala said.
Humala faced a wave of criticism in April after his
administration said it was evaluating buying a stake in the
Peruvian assets of Spanish energy firm Repsol
The government gave up the plan in May but the controversy
appeared to dent Humala's approval ratings.
Humala, a former military officer who abandoned his once
leftist rhetoric before becoming president, said the potential
purchase of Repsol's assets was "anecdotal" and more
controversial in the media than in boardrooms.
Peru's economy has been growing at one of the fastest clips
in the region - 6.3 percent last year.
A similar rate has been expected for 2013 but after the weak
first-quarter expansion the central bank said it was considering
trimming its growth forecast for this year, even as it expects
economic activity to pick back up in April.
"What we are experiencing, particularly in the first
semester of this year, is a bump in the road in the growth of
economic productivity in large part because of external factors
and a timidity in investing, especially in areas like mining,"
Humala said. "These are problems that always affect Peru."
Mining activity has historically fueled economic growth in
Peru but surging domestic demand for everything from new homes
to consumer goods has led growth in recent years.
Earlier this month the Andean nation posted its first
quarterly trade deficit in more than four years.
Humala also told reporters a new law to give indigenous
groups more say in mining and energy projects that affect them
should not be seen as an obstacle to investments.
Communities cannot veto projects, but mining firms have
worried the so-called prior consultation law will snarl
approvals for projects.
The government is rolling back the law so it does not apply
broadly across the Andes in numerous Quechua-speaking peasant
Humala said the government will apply the law
project-by-project instead of deciding who is "indigenous" and
eligible for ' coverage beforehand.