Two study committees are considering limiting the amount of natural gas and gasoline provided at government subsized prices. Currently, gasoline is sold at less than 50% of market price while natural gas is sold at less than 20% of market price.
President Rafael Correa, who says he hopes to have a new system in place sometime in 2013, said the original intent of the subsidies was to benefit the poor. “The system was never intended to heat the swimming pools of the rich at government expense. We need to make sure the subsidy is used for what it was originally meant for.”
The president also questioned the gasoline subsidy, saying that it was meant primarily to keep public transportation costs low.
According to government officials, subsidized gas and gasoline have created major smuggling problems along the borders with Peru and Colombia. According to the president, the smuggling engages a large portion to the country´s police resources.
Under discussion in the committees are a plan to limit domestic gas to three cans per month per family, instituting a card system to track usage. Also under consideration is a plan to upgrade the octane level of regular gasoline and eliminiate the subsidy altogether for larger, more expensive private vehicles.
DOWNTOWN SIDEWALK IMPROVEMENTS IN THE WORKS
The Cuenca Public Works in completing an audit of city sidewalks and plans to begin improvements by June. The city has committed $1.8 million to rebuild 12 miles of sidewalks.
According to the Public Works Department, the first phase of the project focuses on sidewalks on Mariscal Sucre, Huayna Capac, Mariano Cueva, Vargas Machuca, President Córdova, Bolivar and Tomas Ordóñez.
REALTOR ASSOCIATION TAKES AIM AT "GRINGO" REAL ESTATE AGENTS
The president of the Realtors Association of Azuay is calling for a crack down on unregistered real estate agents in the Cuenca area with extra efforts focused on investigating unlicensed foreign agents.
Marco Rodriguez, who says that unlicensed agents are often engaged in unethical practices that stain the reputation of legitimate agents and drive prices higher, is working with organizations throughout the country to introduce legislation that would penalize unlicened real estate sales sales. He also says he has asked local tax and business licencing agencies to investigate a number of real estate companies in Cuenca.
He says he is also concerned about foreign agents –many selling to North American buyers– taking jobs from Ecuadorians. “This is work that should go to local people. There are already laws that cover this and we want to see them enforced.”
CELL PHONE AND INTERNET SERVICE DISRUPTED BY CABLE CUT
Subscribers of Claro and Movistar cell phone networks were without service for as much as niine hours on Wednesday due to the accidental cutting of a fiber optics cable. Some internet service that relied on cell tower signals was also disrupted.
The cable cut occurred in Zhucay, near Cuenca, but service outages were also experienced in Loja and Machala, as a result.
Photo caption: President Correa urges a reduction of gasolline and natural gas subsidies.