In a Wednesday night address to the nation, President Guillermo Lasso reported that he had fulfilled his pledge to vaccinate nine million Ecuadorians in his first 100 days in office. “We have met our goal,” he said, saying that 75% of the population over the age of 16 years of age is fully vaccinated. “Our new goal is 85 percent by the end of September and 95 percent by the end of the year.”
According to the Ministry of Health, the nine million figure was reached only hours before Lasso’s speech. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, 9,000,623 Ecuadorians had received two vaccine doses.
In addition to celebrating his vaccine success, Lasso said his first national budget would be austere. “We must reduce national spending $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion to live within our means,” he said. “We will use great care and wisdom to not affect the most vulnerable segments of the population and the fight against child malnutrition will receive new funding.”
Lasso defended his executive order eliminating the currency outflow tax for airlines and announced plans to eliminate the country’s inheritance tax, which he says produces little income. The inheritance tax, introduced by former president Rafael Correa, sparked massive indigenous-led protests in 2015.
The president said that ending the outflow tax for airlines makes Ecuador’s travel market more competitive and would lead to improved air service, both nationally and internationally.
In other key points in his speech, Lasso said that he “would not touch” the subsidy for LP gas, even though it costs the government almost $900 million a year. “This support is critical for our poorest families and there will be no discussion of ending it,” he said. Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) President Leonidas Iza claimed on Monday that Lasso has the gas subsidy “in his sights.”
Calling his agenda “pro-employment” Lasso said he would send a proposal to the National Assembly to make hiring more flexible. “We need to make the labor code more functional and this requires making it easier for employers to add more workers. Currently, the rules discourage employment due to burdensome bureaucratic requirements, and these need to be stripped away to revitalize the economy.”
In a veiled threat, Lasso said he would take his proposals directly to the people, in the form of referendums, if they are rejected by the National Assembly.