Martim O. Smolka, director of the Lincoln Institute’s Latin America program, last month returned from two workshops in Guatemala and Bogota. In Guatemala, the discussion April 19-20 with government officials including mayors and national secretaries, planners, and university representatives, centered on the challenge of reinforcing municipal revenue sources and improving, through urban planning, a better allocation of public investments, especially on urban infrastructure and services. The agenda also included how to improve the performance of the existing property tax system, and the Central American nation was eager to use the Lincoln Institute online resource Property Tax in Latin America to collect information and evaluate local municipalities’ performance with this tax. This diagnosis will be coordinated by Claudia de Cesare, author of a forthcoming Policy Focus Report on the property tax in Latin America, as part of a capacity-building program in Guatemala. The Lincoln Institute will also lend support on initiatives to improve access to serviced land for social housing programs, Smolka says.
In Bogota, some 150 government officials, planners and other leaders in urban planning participated in a two-day seminar in recognition of 90 years of the use of the long standing value capture tool – the Contribucion de Valorizacion, or betterment contribution – in Colombia. That discussion, in association with the Education Institute of the Public Attorneys and the National University of Colombia, explored legal and technical issues associated with how the charge is distributed among beneficaries of public investments. “Colombia is demonstrating to the still-skeptical – not only in Latin America but worldwide – a model system for value capture,” Smolka says, pointing out that the contributions will support the financing of some $2.4 billion in infrastructure and other public investments through 2015.