President of Uruguay comes to London in search of British investors

President Luis Alberto Lacalle of Uruguay is visiting London to persuade investors that his privatisation programme, which has come up against opposition in Congress, is still on track, writes Colin Harding. Mr Lacalle, who sees the Queen and John Major today, wants to attract foreign investment to his small country, which he sees as the ideal entry point to Mercosur, the common market of 200 million consumers that Uruguay has formed with Argentina and Brazil. British Gas is in the running for the gas distribution network, and Rover may build a plant to assemble luxury cars for Brazil. Uruguay is an established welfare state, where women can retire at 55 and men at 60. There are more than 450,000 pensioners and a workforce of 1.1 million. 'It doesn't pay the bills any more,' Mr Lacalle said. 'I have to persuade those at work to stay on a little longer.'

Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid

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