October protests cost the country more than a billion dollars but final tally is in doubt

Jan 20, 2020 | 7 comments

An October protest street scene in Quito.

Although most of the physical damage has been repaired, business, agricultural and employment losses suffered during the October protests continue to take a toll on Ecuador’s economy. The agricultural sector, in particular, takes exception to the Central Bank’s official estimate of $821 million in losses suffered during the 11 days of protest and their aftermath, saying they are much higher.

Central Bank president Verónica Artola

“You can add at least $200 million in losses, both in direct sales, lost exports and vandalism, and that could still be too low,” says Richard Salazar, of the Banana Marketing and Export Association. “There was a ripple effect of damage caused during that period, including the loss of jobs, that is difficult to calculate and it will take many more months to fully recover,” he adds.

The Central Bank (ECB) issued its loss figure last week, saying it was assisted by the World Bank in computing the final number. “Our estimate is that the country suffered $701 in economic losses in the area of lost sales and other income and $120 million in property damage,” says Verónica Artola, president of the ECB. “We are confident in our estimate although we acknowledge there are damages we missed and that there may be ongoing losses that remain to be calculated.”

She added that strike-related losses had a direct impact on Ecuadorian families. “Our number means that 173,000 families did not receive the basic salary for the entire year.”

In addition to the agricultural sector, the tourism industry, including hotels, tour agencies and restaurants, suffered major losses. “We are still recovering and business remains below the pre-protest levels,” says Juan Miller, spokesman for the Quito tourism board. “Even though life has returned to normal, many foreign travelers have changed their plans about visiting Ecuador and other South American countries.”

The most significant damage to public property occurred at two oil transport facilities in the western Amazon region and to public utility facilities near Ambato. “In addition, there was damage to government buildings and installations in several communities, particularly in Quito,” Artola said. “Damage to private property was much less but still required several millions of dollar to repairs.”

The ECB report said that, among cities, Quito was the most seriously affected by the protests. “Damages there amounted to tens of millions of dollars and repairs will continue in 2020,” the report said. It added that Cuenca, Guayaquil, Ambato and Riobamba also suffered property damage but only to small areas of those cities.

Artola says the impact of lossees cost a total of .13 to the national GDP in 2019.

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