“There is no free lunch in Ecuador,” President Rafael said Tuesday during his annual report to the nation. “There will continue to be hardship and there will continue to be sacrifices as we rebuild from a devastating earthquake and recover from difficult economic times,” he said to an audience of more than 1,000 in the National Assembly hall in Quito.
He added: “The good news is that we are on the road to a strong recovery.”
To cut government expenses, Correa announced that he is eliminating six government agencies and 12 deputy minister positions. “We can combine the work in other office and we will work harder with less people,” he said.
The president also said that yesterday’s address to the nation will be his last. “Next year, another president will stand before you to deliver this report.” Correa leaves office next April, following national elections. Correa will have served 10 years and is already the longest-serving democratically elected president in Ecuador’s history.
In his speech, Correa stressed that the economic burden will fall to those best able to bear it. “We have worked hard to spare the poorest in our society. We have protected such services as health care and education from budget cuts and the new taxes that are going into effect will have only a minor impact on our most vulnerable citizens.”
Correa repeated his pledge to sell government assets, including Tame Airlines and a new hydro-electric generation plant east of Cuenca. “We will raise money from these sales to assist in reconstruction on the coast,” he said.
He also defended his administration against charges it did not save money for emergencies during good economic times. “We have invested more than any administration in history in this country’s future, he said.” We have built hospitals, highways and schools. We have vastly improved our health care and educational system. We have reduced poverty to the lowest level in history. Within the past nine years, Ecuador has shown more improvement than any other country in Latin America. We have invested our savings wisely.”
Correa also announced plans to reintroduce bills in the National Assembly to raise taxes on inheritances and capital gains. He said the thresholds would be raised, however, from those he proposed last year. “The taxes will only affect the rich,” he said. In 2015, he withdrew his proposals following nationwide protests.
The six government agencies Correa says he is eliminating are: Instituto Nacional de Idiomas, Conocimiento y Saberes Ancestrales; Secretaría Técnica de Alianzas Público Privadas; Secretaría Técnica de Discapacidades; Comisión especial interistucional del Puerto de Manta; Secretaría Técnica de Regulación de Poder del Mercado; and the Secretaría Técnica de Economía Popular y Solidaria.
He did provide information about how much money will be saved by the closures.