The first thing Guillermo Lasso will do if he is elected president is to declare a fiscal emergency and begin cutting Ecuador’s national budget. The second thing he will do is to call a national referendum to limit term limits to elected office, especially the presidency. The third thing he will do is repeal 14 taxes enacted during the Rafael Correa presidency.
In a series of interviews following last week’s national election, Lasso refers frequently to the political and social crisis in Venezuela and promises he won’t allow that to happen in Ecuador.
“I will not let this country to become another Venezuela either in terms of economic policy or government control over the lives of citizens,” Lasso said Thursday in an interview with RTS television.
Lasso faces Lenin Moreno, former vice president under Correa, in an April 2 runoff election. Moreno came within half a percentage point of winning last Sunday’s election outright while Lasso has earned the endorsement of five of the six losing candidates.
Lasso has focused much of his criticism of Correa on the national debt, which stands at about 45% of GDP. He claims that the current government failed to reduce spending following the collapse of oil prices in 2014 and 2015, and has taken on far too much debt, especially from the Chinese government. “One of the first lessons of economics is that you cut back your spending when you make less money,” he says. “Correa is an economist and should understand this. Discipline is essential during hard times and this administration does not have it.”
For Lasso, repealing the constitutional amendment that allows the president and National Assembly members to serve indefinitely is a matter of fairness. “When he (Correa) knew that the people would not approve it, he let the National Assembly, which he controlled, do it,” he says. “I will let the voters have the final word.”
The repeal of Correa’s taxes is a matter of fairness, Lasso says. “Private enterprise is being punished in this country and the result is the recession and unemployment crisis we have today,” he says. “Repeal these taxes and we can create a million new jobs in Ecuador.” Among the taxes he says he will eliminate are import fees, including luxury taxes, the “plusvalía” tax on real estate capital gains, and the exit taxes on money sent out of the country.
“In general, I will reduce the size of government and the ‘bureaucracy correísta’,” Lasso told CNN Español on Wednesday. “We are overtaxed and over-regulated and this is why the economy suffers,” he says.
Among other changes Lasso promises, is a roll-back restrictions on the news media that Correa has imposed. “Let’s return to a free press where journalists can express their opinions without fear of going to jail,” he said.
Returning to his Venezuela analogy, Lasso told CNN that “Moreno is to Rafael Correa what Nicolás Maduro was to Hugo Chavez,” He said. “Lenin will continue the failed work of Correa,” he says, adding, “and like Maduro, he is a weak, inexperienced leader who lacks the discipline to change course.”