President-elect Guillermo Lasso introduced eight members of his new cabinet on Monday and said he intends to maintain a “laser focus” on ending the Covid-19 epidemic and restoring the economy. Of the new ministers, five are women.
“I have chosen my ministers carefully, not just for their competence but for their dedication,” he said. “We need people who will remain on the job for the long-term and devote themselves to solving Ecuador’s problems.” He added that one of the failures of the government of President Lenin Moreno is the rapid turn-over of top ministers. “There have been four ministers of health in the year of the pandemic. How can you overcome the biggest crisis of our time with this kind of discontinuity?”
At the introduction of the cabinet and in two television interviews, Lasso repeated his campaign pledge of vaccinating nine million Ecuadorians during his first 100 days in office. “President [Joe] Biden is fulfilling his vaccination promise in the U.S. and I can do it in Ecuador,” he said. To acquire more vaccine doses, Lasso said he has already made contact with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian and Chinese Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
In his interviews, Lasso provided details on his economic program that will emphasize attracting foreign investment and reducing red tape for existing businesses. He explained that he would eliminate the five percent tax on money sent out of the country, saying the reduction would come over a four-year period. “This will be gradual but it will show the world that we are serious about attracting and rewarding investment and that we will not penalize those who want to do business in Ecuador,” he said.
He also said he will work with the new National Assembly to reduce the number of tax deductions given to business over the years. “My administration will be pro-business but we expect businesses to pay their fair share of taxes. Many of the deductions that have been added to the tax code over the years amount to government give-aways and we can no longer afford those.”
Among his other priorities, Lasso listed the reduction of extreme poverty, repairing and preventing environmental damage from mining and oil production and toughening laws to stop violence against women.
Among the ministers introduced Monday are Mae Montaño, Ministry of Social Inclusion; Ximena Garzón, Ministry of Health; Sebastián Palacios, Ministry of Sports; María Brown, Ministry of Education; Darío Herrera, Ministry of Housing; María Machuca, Ministry of Culture; and Bernarda Ordóñez, Minister of Human Rights.