President Guillermo Lasso said Monday night that he will put his plan to revise labor laws and reactivate the economy directly to the people. “We will do this by the end of the year and allow the citizens of Ecuador have a direct voice in the future of their country,” he said.
In an interview with the RTS television channel, Lasso said the referendum would also include questions to officially make the U.S. dollar Ecuador’s currency and to eliminate the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS). In addition, he said he was considering taking other questions to voters.
“This is not an action to bypass the National Assembly or to challenge its authority,” Lasso said. “I want to consult directly with the people on these important questions and I believe they have the right to have a voice.” The comment was a response to members of the Assembly who claim Lasso plans to institute his agenda through a direct vote and was considering dissolving the Assembly and calling for new elections.
Since the early days of his presidential campaign, Lasso has claimed that Ecuador’s labor laws discourage employment that should be liberalized to encourage business growth. “The laws and regulations are suffocating for businesses and one of the reasons the national economy was in stagnation even before the pandemic. “We need to reduce the difficulty for employers to hire workers and attract investment,” he says. “Those who support the bureaucracy and red tape act as if we have a functional formal economy when, in fact, 70 percent of all workers in the country are informal. How can we change if we don’t recognize the facts?”
Among other changes, Lasso wants to make it easier for businesses to hire by contract, bypassing long-term employment obligations.
On the issue of the U.S. dollar, Lasso said he wants to “institutionalize” its use in Ecuador. “As it is today, it is possible to eliminate the dollar as the national currency at the whim of the Assembly and the president. I want the dollar recognized as the official currency in the constitution.”
He added that “in the best of all worlds” Ecuador would have its own currency. “I understand the argument that we should have a local currency and that it reflects poorly on our sovereignty that we don’t. On the other hand, the dollar is the world’s reserve currency and has proven its durability. It has brought economic stability to Ecuador and I feel no shame in making its use official.”
Lasso has previously said he thought that the CPCCS was “redundant” and was unnecessary for the governance process. “We have a National Assembly and a president to conduct the functions of this body and I consider it an unjustified bureaucracy and unnecessary expense.”
The CPSS was created by the 2008 constitution, favored by former president Rafael Correa who believed it provided a “layer of direct democracy” to government. Critics called it an unjustified extension of presidential powers.