President Rafael Correa announced Saturday a 8.8 percent increase in the minimum wage for private-sector workers for 2013, during his weekly television and radio broadcast.
Correa, who has won strong popular support for a range of measures including expanding access to health care and improving roads and highways, hiked the minimum wage to $318 per month from $292 per month.
He made the decision unilaterally after the government was unable to reach an agreement with business and labor leaders. Businesses pushed for an increase of four to six percent while labor unions wanted a 17 to 20 percent increase. The government estimates that inflation will run 5.5 percent in 2012.
Correa said he wants the minimum wage eventually to reach a "dignified salary" of $368 per month that would be on par with the cost of basic goods, including groceries, clothing and school fees.
The Ecuadorian government has gradually raised the minimum wage during Correa’s six years in office and insists companies should not report profits while workers are not making enough to cover basic expenses. The minium wage was $200 when Correa was elected in 2006. According to Correa, the new minimum wage will 96% of basic living necessities as defined by the Central Bank compared to 67% when he first took office.
Ecuador adopted the dollar as its currency following a 1999 financial crisis.
Ecuador to fight crime with biometric identification
According to the Russian company, Speech Technology Center, Ecuador has successfully completed installation of the world’s first biometric identification platform at a nation-wide level. The system, which is the first of its kind to be deployed by any country, combines voice and face identification capabilities. The new technology will be available to all Ecuadorian law enforcement agencies.
Speech Technology Center, which operates under the name SpeechPro in the United States, enables authorities to build a massive database containing several million “voiceprints” of known criminals, suspects, or persons of interest. When authorities want to ID speakers on an intercepted call, the recording is entered into the database, which provides a match with what SpeechPro claims is about 97 percent accuracy.
The system that the firm says it has provided to Ecuador also allows authorities to accumulate a large image database of suspects, with a facial recognition tool that supplements the so-called “VoiceGrid.” While facial recognition technology in the past has lacked accuracy, SpeechPro says it has invented algorithms which “deliver reliable results even when facial characteristics have undergone physical changes.”
According to spokesman Juan Perez of Ecuador’s National Police, the new technoglogy will be an important step in fighting crime. “It will be especially helpful in indentifying repeat offenders and will help us get them off the street if they commit more crimes.”
Central Bank president resigns, admits faking degree
Ecuador's Central Bank president has resigned after acknowledging that he presented a fake academic degree 22 years ago — a scandal that prompted the country's leader to call for him to face justice.
Central Bank President Pedro Delgado, who is a cousin of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, apologized to the nation, the government and his family on Wednesday at a news conference. "With honesty, I should acknowledge that I made a very serious mistake 22 years ago," Delgado said. "I made a wrong decision to achieve my academic objective."
He acknowledged that he had given a Costa Rican business school "a document with no value (showing) a degree I didn't hold. I kept this act secret. I offer an apology to my wife, children, the Ecuadorean people, the government … and above all to President Rafael Correa," Delgado said.
Correa called it a "very hard day" in a message on his Twitter account. "We've verified that Pedro Delgado had presented a false degree," Correa said in the message, adding that it "has done serious damage to the revolution."
Credit: http://abcnews.go.com; photo caption: President Rafael Correa