Ecuador: a sound strategy in foreign policy and sustainable economic growth

By Peter Tase

Since January 2007, the government of Ecuador, under the leadership of President Rafael Correa, has pursued economic reforms that have alleviated poverty, built sustainable cities, initiated efforts to eliminate pollution, reduced unemployment significantly and brought at the forefront a high level of transparency in the Ecuadorian Government and embraced the war against corruption.

President Correa, an economist educated in Europe and the United States, has garnered popularity through his administration’s successes in funding large public works projects, improvement of public schools’ infrastructure and has increased oil revenues.

According to Nick Miroff of the Washington Post, President Correa: “represents a new model of Latin American leadership: economically populist, socially conservative …and seemingly unbeatable at election time. Polls consistently put his approval rating between 60 and 85 percent, making him one of the region’s most popular leaders.” [1]

When elected president for the third time, Mr. Correa won by a landslide majority and won 57% of the votes. President Rafael Correa has been very successful in positioning his country on the global stage by applying a very effective Foreign Policy, a broad presence of international trade offices extending from China to South Africa and from almost every European Country to Australia and South Asia.

Under his leadership, Ecuador joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas in June, 2009 and has emerged as one of the most influential and popular leaders in Latin America’s regional organizations and beyond, even the government of Italy has expressed an interest to become more familiar with Quito’s domestic policies embraced over the last seven years.

These reforms have made a major positive impact, nationwide, as Mr. Verselino Noteno, a beneficiary residing in the city of Putumayo, states: “we also need to live with dignity, to have schools and health services. We are happy with the government and it has kept its word, they gave us housing. There are many of us who refrain to live in misery. In Putumayo 85 percent of the population is illiterate, with these projects we aspire to have our kids as young professionals and in the future they would support their local communities.”

Quito inaugurated last year the consulate general and commercial office in Mumbai, India; in a short period of time the government of President Rafael Correa has encountered positive results towards increasing the level of international commercial affairs between Ecuador and India.  It’s noteworthy to mention that only three Latin American countries have a consular office in Mumbai: Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil. The case of Ecuador is even more unusual because India does not have an embassy or consulate in this country. It seems that Ecuador acknowledges the importance of emerging economies nowadays.

According to Mr. Héctor Cueva, the Consul General and Trade Commissioner of the Republic of Ecuador in Mumbai (India): “in less than one year after opening this office there have been important advancements in negotiations and talks with companies focused on pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and food imports and production.

In December 2013, Jorge Glas, Vice President of Ecuador, participated in the V India-Latin America and Caribbean Conference in New Delhi. During this visit, Mr. Glas had high level meetings with Indian government officials, important business leaders who manage large companies. Moreover this month (August, 2014), Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonardo Arízaga visited New Delhi and had an intensive agenda of meetings. Mr. Arízaga introduced the strategic projects and accomplishments of Ecuador.  He invited Indian business leaders and entrepreneurs to participate with their investments in Ecuador and share their successful experiences with our government.  President Rafael Correa will be visiting India in early 2015. These high level visits demonstrate our serious commitment to strengthening the strategic ties between Ecuador and India.”

Such an energetic and dynamic foreign policy implemented by President Rafael Correa, is a genuine example of being a success story and above all, it must be used as example by other countries in the region – including Suriname, Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay – who aspire and ought to expand their relations not only with India but with many other countries that have garnered a significant importance in the world stage.  Ecuadorian Foreign Policy and its International Commercial initiatives have greatly contributed towards the wellbeing of all Ecuadorians and at the same time the national image of the Andean country has significantly been improved and certainly has become an example for other nations.

Since April 30, 2013, The Government of Ecuador has had Mr. Patricio René Rivera Yánez as the new Minister Coordinator for Economic Policies. As a 34 year old economist, Mr. Rivera Yánez was Deputy Undersecretary of Public Investment and Corporate Management in the Ministry of Planning and National Development (SENPLADES). Minister Rivera’s objectives are to reduce poverty, promote social justice, improve the national economy and increase its productivity. [2]

On July 2nd, 2014, the National Secretariat for Public Administration announced that Ecuador had improved its ranking by 19 points in the United Nations’ Electronic Government Survey namely: “E-GOVERNMENT FOR THE FUTURE WE WANT”, now Ecuador is ranked in the 83rd position among the 193 countries worldwide, while in the 2012 index it was ranked as the 102nd.

Additionally, the same study has recognized the government of President Rafael Correa, as one of the top twenty countries in the Americas that have experienced a medium-high economic development. The UN ranking system gathers relevant information from all member countries that are connected to the development of information technology and communication tools that are considered to be strategic in order to enable efficiency and transparency in the governing institutions. Since May 2014, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Administration has embraced new trends and has adopted new technologies which make government offices more relevant to all Ecuadorians and local businesses. Thanks to these dynamic initiatives, Quito aspires to broaden the public participation in the decision making process, improve access to information, improve transparency, remove bureaucratic barriers to public services, and strive to secure a well inclusive economic growth and sustainable development nationwide. [3]

In 2013, studies undertaken by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America have claimed that Ecuador’s prosperity has been further strengthened due to its expansion of public investments. The government of President Rafael Correa is one of the largest investors in the region trailed by the governments of Bolivia, Cuba, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. In recent years, Ecuador has experienced an overall dynamic growth and President Correa’s economic reforms have had a positive impact in the strengthening of the construction and public works sectors. Quito has accomplished the highest public investment levels in national history, not as a result of maintaining high oil prices, but thanks to other positive factors such as: the renegotiation of external debt (by reducing or eliminating the interest rate the government saves US$ 300 million annually), the elimination of trusts to ensure the debt payment, return of public savings, a fairer and efficient taxation system, improving the trading and marketing of its crude oil reserves as well as the implementation of a transparent procurement system.

President Correa’s government aims to further strengthen its public investments in key strategic sectors which contribute towards a sustained economic growth. After January, 2007, when President Rafael Correa took the oath of office, his government begun to promote projects in strategic sectors while securing lucrative loans from the People’s Republic of China and other regional multilateral organizations. Such actions have helped Ecuador to revive its economy and withstand the shocks of the global financial crisis.

In 2012, the government invested US$4,800 million that were destined to finance the construction of various hydroelectric power stations, social projects in several parts of the country for the vulnerable sectors of society and technology for national security and the justice system. In 2011 public investments reached approximately US$ 4.698 million. In 2013, the public investment in Ecuador represented 22 percent of the national budget reaching US$7.052 million. According to the National Secretariat of Planning and Development (SENPLADES), the public investment represented around 14 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. The 2013 Annual Investment Plan (PAI) prioritized the capacity building programs: allocated US$ 2,041.66 million in the Social Development sector (29% of total PAI) and US$1,250.08 million to the production sector (18%), especially for new employment generation and development of the domestic industry. Ecuador invested US$1974.33 million (28%) for Strategic Sectors: public works, technological breakdown and infrastructure. The Promotion of knowledge, research, development and innovation reached US$646.85 million (9%) that was intended for the sector of acquiring new talents and promote professional training. Ecuador is the Latin American country that invests the most in higher education; on average the government spends 1.8% of the GDP for investment in higher education, only Denmark beats this figure with a spending of 2.2% of the GDP.  Last year’s investments were allocated according to President Correa’s National Plan for Good Living (2013-2017). [4]

Some of the most important projects executed in 2013 are: New Education infrastructure, hydroelectric projects, National Road Infrastructure System and The city of Knowledge which is designed to promote technological innovation, negotiations and knowledge, where cutting edge infrastructure meets human talent. This is the first Hub in Latin America that will be focused on research and technology. It will have the first University of Investigation of Experimental Technology, with participation of public and private institutions; there will be centers of technological transfer, enterprises of advanced technology in agricultural and agro industrial sectors of Ecuador.

According to various national experts, this center will generate applications and innovative processes that will be beneficial to the whole world. [5]

In 2012 Ecuador grew up to 6.5 percent and its economy expanded by 5.35 percent, indeed it was one of the highest rates in the region. In a press conference, President Rafael Correa said that public investment in Ecuador, during the period of 2007 – 2011, almost doubled the amount of oil revenues received by the central government. In 2011, the net revenues of the state were US$ 12,772,000 while investment in this period reached US$ 23,803 million therefore Ecuador became “the country with the largest public investment sector in Latin America.”

The industrial and agricultural production sectors acknowledge the ever increasing purchasing power that the Ecuadorian population has currently attained. In 2012, the minimum wage was raised from US$ 264 to US$ 292 per month. The reduction of urban poverty reached 4.8 percent, the economic growth of GDP was up to almost 9 percent and President Correa’s administration accomplished the lowest unemployment rate in Latin America, reaching the level of 5.5 percent. Furthermore, with a coefficient of 0.495, Ecuadorian society has become better inclusive than Colombia (0.578), Brazil (0.576), Chile (0.524) or Panama (0.521).

Henry Kronfle Kozhaya, president of the Guayaquil Chamber of Industries, said that the current stability, “which has been embraced in the last five years by the executive branch, has been very important for the economic growth of the country, as for many years a chief of state could not complete his term in office.” Mr. Kronfle adds: “The socio-economic inclusion policy promoted by this government has had a big impact because it has increased the purchasing power of the population.” According to Mr. José Centeno, president of the Chamber of Construction Companies, the government’s investment in public works proved to be very important in order to invigorate this sector in recent years and maintain a 14% annual growth: “the government, with its housing plans for the working class, makes home ownership an easy process. There is a high demand for building materials because of a large scale implementation of public works.”

The construction sector is among the most developed sectors that make up a significant percentage of Ecuador’s GDP. The National Housing policies, construction of new bridges and other public works have generated jobs for thousands of citizens. [6]

On November 5-7, 2012, during the “Second Regional Meeting of People’s and Nationalities by Sumak Kawsay, plurality, intercultural values, UNASUR, ALBA and CAN United for life and harmony,” Fabricio Proaño, then Minister of Political Coordination, gave a presentation on the implementation of public policies in Ecuador.

This event was held at the plenary hall of the National Assembly of Ecuador. In his statement Minister Proaño stated that Latin American people have a matured conscience and have decided to escape from the centuries old oppression, as of now their direct and real participation in the socio-political processes is always required. Minister Proaño explained that the Plurinational State proposes a permanent participation and social control in the decision making process, leaving behind the separation between state and civil society and recognizes diversity and autonomous pluralism, economic diversity and reliable justice system – political in the context of a having a new state model, which requires that plurinationality be taken as a reality and intercultural reality as a tool for action.

“One of the implications of Sumak Kawsay was to recognize the values of ancient thought and return its space that was taken away from the hegemonic positions, without considering, for example, the green revolution that proposes the Good Living in order to combat the environmental catastrophe of today’s world.” This meeting was organized by the Government of the Republic of Ecuador and the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, it included the participation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), they all seek to develop and strengthen the active participation of social organizations of peoples and nations of the region, while discussing in the context of Sumak Kawsay paradigm the ancestral knowledge and practices in a intercultural environment.

Some of the other topics discussed in this forum were: “Indicators of Sumak Kawsay”; “Development of Public Policies based on the guidelines of Sumak Kawsay”; “Plurinationality and Inter cultural aspects”; “Actions for the development of Public Policies based on the guidelines of Sumak Kawsay”; “actions and rights for the development and defense of Mother Earth”; “Ensuring Food Security and autonomy” and “Constitutional Justice of Sumak Kawsay”. [7]

In March 2014, Sustainable Trip, a tourism information website, certified by Rainforest Alliance, announced that Ecuador has become the Country of Fashion. This article highlights the five reasons to visit Ecuador, while reaching a record number of tourists and having a 20 percent increase compared with the previous year (2013). The report states that Ecuador is one of the hottest destinations of 2014, as newspapers, travel magazines, websites and blogs of travelers have affirmed over the past months. Among the reasons why Ecuador was chosen by the World Travel Awards as “the Green Destination of the Year,” are: the country is home to 33 natural reserves protected by the Government, it is home to many other areas of tropical forest possessing considerable biodiversity; the immense wealth of natural and cultural diversity, species of birds, butterflies, orchids, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and other species; the natural values of the Sangay reserves and Galapagos Islands and 27 nationalities living in the country. It must be remembered that business generated by tourism is also supported closely by the State in order to promote sustainable practices that have transformed Quito into a regional leader in sustainable tourism. The publication also dedicates a whole paragraph only to the Galapagos Islands, which by its beauty and diversity need no introduction, but always will be remembered as the natural laboratory where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution of species. It also emphasizes that Ecuador is the new Latin American King of chocolate, both because it is the leading exporter of fine cocoa with aroma, such as fine chocolates made by Ecuadorian hands, many of which can be found on the Cocoa Route while taking a scenic train on the Durán–Yaguachi route.

Finally, the last reason to visit Ecuador, according to the Rainforest Alliance, is the variety of natural hideouts housed in the Amazon, the majesty of the Andes, the beauty of the coast, or because Ecuador sits on the Equator, as well as other beautiful cities with colonial architecture that the country possesses many of which can be discovered on a trip with a luxurious Train ride linking the two major cities of Ecuador. [8]

On June 25, 2013, Ecuador led the XII Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (Organización del Tratado de Cooperación Amazónica (OTCA)), together with eight other countries in order to develop the Amazon region. In this meeting the member nations discussed the academic and scientific research and the improvement of sustainable projects of the Amazon region. There was also discussed the creation of the Amazon Research Centers and on May 3rd, in the ACTO a multilateral agreement was reached that ensured the exchange of information and research within the research center directed by all member countries. These centers are expected to collect data concerning the existing natural heritage in the Amazon basin for research and documentation. Furthermore, the delegations committed themselves to validate and update the research and knowledge acquired through the study of the Amazon region as well as achieving academic mobility for students, teachers and academics and establishing a network of researchers focused on the Amazon region. [9]

On October 24 -26, 2012, the Government of Ecuador and the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO conducted an international meeting entitled “World Heritage and Extreme Poverty” in order to reflect on the importance that cultural assets have in Ecuador towards the fight against poverty. In this event, many experts from France, Bolivia, Mexico and United States, discussed the relationship between the national heritage and sustainable development. María Fernanda Espinosa, then Minister Coordinator for Cultural Heritage stated that: “UNESCO established an alliance with Ecuador in order to calculate the revenue contribution that cultural tourism has towards the national economy and its impact in the fight against poverty.

Thus recalling how the train system could benefit the country towards job creation and economic development Minister Espinosa said that the Government has invested US$250 million in asset development. She also recalled that the Citizen Revolution was responsible for recovering the memory of citizens, for example, extolling the culinary art, music, or more tangible objects of the Ecuadorian heritage.

Minister Espinosa stated that President Correa’s government has invested US$250 million in cultural assets development. The event was attended by Nuria Sanz, head of the Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO, Rémy Prud’homme, professor at the University of Paris XII, Janice Perlman, president of The Mega-Cities Project, and other international guests. Ecuador has also a vibrant Afro Ecuadorian Community which is an important part of the cultural diversity in the Andean nation. Every year this community holds an annual celebration which has become the hallmark of their cultural activities and an attraction point for international visitors and anthropologists. [10]

In his latest visit to Quito, in May 27, 2013, the Italian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mario Giro, expressed his government’s interest to become more familiar with the economic development model of Ecuador, as President Correa’s reforms are considered unique in the World, especially the National Plan for Good Living which is being implemented under his third presidential mandate (2013-2017).

After attending President Correa’s official ceremony of the oath of office, Mr. Giro had a meeting with Mr. Fander Falconí, then Minister of National Planning and Development, with whom he touched upon the accomplishments and challenges that the Ecuadorian government has to tackle in order to deepen the positive changes, continue with the fight against poverty, promoting new ways of production through changing the production matrix. Mr. Pabel Muñoz, then Undersecretary for the Democratization of the State, emphasized that this policy of development is closely accompanied by President Correa’s government which is consolidating the public’s voice, its capacity to plan and bring a new breed of development that has an emphasis in redistribution that overcomes a bourgeoisie country and establishes democratic public policies. [11]

An important aspect of President Correa’s reforms is the development of ecological tourism centers so that they generate income for local communities and improve their welfare. Ecuadorian government officials are undoubtedly becoming an example of effective leadership in the region, while pursuing a vibrant agenda towards improving transparency, adopting best practices in sustainable development and implementing environmentally friendly policies that have a positive impact regionally and globally. [12]














Photo source: Presidential Administration of Ecuador


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Peter Tase

Peter Tase is a contributor, freelance journalist and a research scholar of International Affairs, Paraguayan Studies, Middle East Studies and Latin American Affairs, located in the United States. Educated at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Marquette University Les Aspin Center for Government; Tase is the author of “Simultaneous Dictionary in Five Languages: Guarani, English, Italian, Albanian and Spanish” and “El Dr. FEDERICO FRANCO y Su Mandato Presidencial en la Historia del Paraguay.” He’s a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy News. His personal website is

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