CUENCA DIGESTOverseas remittances from Ecuadorians drop sharply
Money sent home from Ecuadorians living in the U.S., Spain and Italy, dropped 22% in fourth quarter of 2008 compared to the same period for 2007.
On a per capita basis, there are more Ecuadorians living and working outside the country than citizens of any other Latin American country. There are an estimated 2.75 million Ecuadorians living in the U.S. and 1.25 million in Spain and Italy.
According to Quito economist Carlos Martinez, the situation will get worse before it gets better. “Foreign remittances are the second largest source of income for Ecuador, after petroleum, so this reduction will have a serious affect on many families here. The economic situation is bad in the U.S. and many foreign workers are losing their jobs. The situation is much worse in Spain.”
Martinez added that the biggest impact of the reductions will be felt in Cuenca and Azuay Province, as well as in Loja and Canar provinces. “Percentage-wise, the Ecuadorian southern Andes has more citizens living overseas than any other part of the country.”
Fifty new buses to be added to city’s fleet; construction begins on Feria Libre transfer station
The companies that operate Cuenca’s public bus routes will add more than 50 news buses to their fleets this year, expanding service to several new neighborhoods.
According to Patricio Segarra, Director of Cuenca’s public transportation authority, the new buses will cost about $130,000 each. “The construction of the new transfer station at Feria Libre begins in a few days and we expect the new buses to be on the streets by the time the facility is complete.”
The new buses will be supplied by Mercedez Benz, Isuzu and Hino. The buses will meet new city standards of providing easier access for handicapped riders.
Segarra admitted that complaints by bus operators that the current 25 cent fare falls short of providing sufficient operating capital is legitmate. “We are aware of the situation and changes may have to be made.”
Bus drivers complain of passenger abuse due to new payment system
Cuenca bus drivers say they are putting up with insults because of the card payment system implemented in late 2008.
Edwin Pauta, president of Cuenca’s Rucaurte bus lines, said he began warning riders two weeks ago that abusing bus drivers would no longer be tolerated. “We tried to explain to passengers that with the new fare cards we will no longer be making change for cash riders. The public information campaign about this has been going on for months. If passengers don’t use the card they must have exact change.”
Luis Augurto, who drives for Ricaurte, says he is tired of the verbal abuse from some riders. “They understand that there are new rules, they just refuse to follow them.” He continued: “This is not only humiliation for bus drivers. Children, the disabled and the elderly suffer because they have to hear it.”
University of Cuenca struggles to make ends meet
According to administrators, the University of Cuenca is facing one of its worst budget crises in years. New national funding rules for public universities combined with a deteriorating economy, means the university is looking at shortfalls of more than 30% compared to 2008. Of immediate concern, officials say, are university bank accounts that have been temporarily frozen by the government for auditing.
University officials plan to meet with federal officials in Quito this week in hopes of gaining access to frozen funds as well as to discuss ongoing funding. Administrators say protecting the university’s autonomy will be a priority.