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Assembly committee passes revised version of economic reform law ahead of final debate

After heated discussion, a revised version of President Lenin Moreno’s Economic Growth Law was approved Friday night by the National Assembly’s economic regime committee. The bill now goes to the full Assembly for final debate.

The National Assembly’s economic regime committee passed a revised version of the economic reform law on Friday. (El Comercio)

Several members of the economic committee said they will vote against the legislation in the full Assembly, explaining that they only voted for it to keep it from becoming law by default under terms of its executive emergency status. The law must be debated and voted on by midnight Sunday to avoid the default.

The final outcome of the legislation is further complicated by new threats from indigenous groups who say they may organize new protests if it becomes law.

The committee version of the law underwent major changes during committee debate, with the original 404 articles being reduced to 185.

Among major changes is one that gives the Assembly review authority over presidential appointments to the Ecuador Central Bank. Other changes include elimination of a tax on digital services, the addition of a tax on sugar-free soft drinks and removal of a provision which would have allowed graduate-level distance learning programs to be established at public universities.

Another change removed direct government authority over the country’s social security agencies, IESS, ISSFA and ISSPOL, which will continued to be governed by autonomous boards.

Remaining unchanged are a new tax on companies with annual sales of more than one million dollars, a tax on mobile phone plans and reductions in the currency exit tax for manufacturers and the cigarette tax.

On Friday, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) repeated its threat to mobilize new protests if the economic reform law goes into effect. “We have made it clear that we will consider taking to the streets once again if this legislation becomes law,” Conaie President Jaime Vargas said. “We demand that it be shelved.”

Conaie submitted its own economic reform proposal to the Assembly two weeks ago but it has not been considered.