Lasso lays out his priorities: Tax and hiring incentives for businesses, end of bank exit fee, career choices for university students, 9 million vaccines in 100 days

Apr 15, 2021 | 16 comments

Claiming that a lack of employment is Ecuador’s biggest problem, President-elect Guillermo Lasso presented what he called a “liberal vision agenda” to reactivate the economy. “We believe in a free entrepreneurial economy that provides opportunities for all,” he said. “Our economy has been over-regulated and under-productive for years, restricting growth and wages, and it is time to cut the shackles.”

President-elect Lasso’s legislative agenda is certain to face stiff opposition in the National Assembly, which is dominated by leftists.

Lasso said his administration will focus on reform in four areas: employment, taxes, internal and external trade and financing.

In his first day in office, Lasso says he will send tax reform legislation to the National Assembly increasing incentives to businesses for hiring and eliminate a 2 percent tax on small businesses. “We will not increase taxes but offer targeted tax reductions to help restart the economy,” he added. He repeated a campaign promise not to raise Ecuador’s 12 percent VAT tax.

Among Lasso’s other early goals are to repeal of the communication law; reform the higher education law to allow students more career choice and to provide autonomy to universities; to eliminate the exit tax on funds sent out of the country; to reduce regulations on hiring for businesses, including revision of labor contract law; and to establish “tax holidays” to promote domestic tourism.

Many of the president-elect’s proposals were developed by the Fundación Ecuador Libre, a think tank he founded in 2006. “We have been working on these ideas for many years and we finally have the opportunity to put them into action,” he said.

Lasso also announced a goal of vaccinating nine million Ecuadorians within the first 100 days of his administration. “None of our plans will be effective unless we stop the coronavirus,” he said. “We are already working to purchase the doses we need,” he said, without providing details. He said his transition team will meet with Ministry of Health officials early next week.

Most of Lasso’s proposals will require action by the new National Assembly where he is certain to encounter strong resistance. The largest Assembly bloc, the Correista Union of Hope (UNES) said Tuesday that it would oppose any changes to laws enacted under former president Rafael Correa, including the Law of Communication and laws regulating employment and businesses.

Pachakutik, the party of third-place presidential finisher Yaku Perez and the second largest voting bloc in the Assembly, announced Wednesday that it would be in “permanent opposition” to the Lasso government although its leadership said there might be “common ground” on some issues.

A spokesman for the Democratic Left, the third largest Assembly bloc also indicated that it would oppose any legislation “not in the interest of furthering the welfare of all Ecuadorians,” complaining that many of Lasso’s early priorities are aimed at assisting the business sector.